Planned 5G wireless services by wireless carriers might disrupt thousands of daily flights and cost air passengers $1.6 billion yearly in delays.
Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, told a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing that AT&T and Verizon Communications must delay their plans to use C-Band spectrum for 5G wireless services because it could delay, divert, or cancel about 4% of daily flights and affect hundreds of thousands of passengers.
“It would be a catastrophic failure of government,” Kirby told reporters.
The FAA and the aviation industry have raised concerns about possible 5G interference with radio altimeters and other sensitive aircraft electronics.
A week ago, the FAA published new airworthiness directions warning of possible aircraft diversions due to 5G wireless spectrum interference but did not provide a specific number.
“Coming January 5 — unless something changes — we will not be able to use radio altimeters at 40-something of the largest airports in the country,” Kirby said. “It is a certainty, and this is not a debate.”
Kirby said it would mean that at major U.S. airports, in the event of bad weather, cloud cover or even heavy smog, “you could only do visual approaches essentially.”
Trade group Airlines for America (A4A) said Wednesday that if the FAA 5G directive had been in effect in 2019, “approximately 345,000 passenger flights, 32 million passengers, and 5,400 cargo flights would have been impacted in the form of delayed flights, diversions, or cancellations.”
Southwest Airlines’ chief executive, Gary Kelly, told the Senate hearing that it “would be a significant setback” to its operations if the FAA directive takes effect.
The wireless industry defended the technology.
“The aviation industry’s fearmongering relies on completely discredited information and deliberate distortions of fact,” CTIA, a wireless trade group, said.
According to the report, 5G is safe and does not interfere with aviation operations in more than 40 nations.
In the administration of President Joe Biden, the problem is a priority. Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg were down with White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese Wednesday to discuss source Reuters.
Neither the White House nor the Transportation Department issued a statement on the issue.
At the session, Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn urged airlines and wireless carriers to strike an agreement.
In the past, Rosenworcel has maintained that the difficulties can be rectified, and the spectrum can be used safely.
For six months, AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay the commercial debut of C-band cellular service until January 5, as well as taking preventive precautions.
Proposals by aviation industry groups to address air safety concerns have been criticised as insufficient.
United’s Kirby said the FCC and FAA “need to get in a room and talk to each other and solve the problem,” adding that the issue “cannot be solved on the back of airlines.”
A4A said the FAA directive would “materially disrupt airline operations” and said cargo operators estimate it “would have cost them $400 million annually.”
The group said “the annual impact cost to passengers to be approximately $1.59 billion” of travel delays.
Wireless operators have expressed little interest in further delaying the use of airwaves that the industry paid more than $80 billion to acquire.
The FAA directives require the revision of aeroplane and helicopter flight manuals to restrict certain activities requiring radio altimeter data when 5G C-Band wireless broadband signals are present.
The FAA intends to provide additional notices to airlines before January 5 with more information on the potential interference. It is currently discussing which altimeters could be utilised under the current mitigation procedures.