Federal security officials are directing operators of some Boeing aircraft to introduce additional procedures when landing on wet or snowy runways near approaching 5G service, saying interference from the wireless networks could mean the planes could lose more time. need space to land.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday that interference could slow systems such as thrust reversers on Boeing 787s, leaving only the brakes to slow the plane. That “can prevent a plane from stopping on the runway,” the FAA said.
Similar orders could be issued for other aircraft in the coming days. The FAA has asked Boeing and Airbus for information about many models. Boeing said it is working with its suppliers, airlines, telecom companies and regulators “to ensure that every commercial aircraft model can operate safely and confidently when 5G is implemented in the United States.”
The order for the Boeing jets comes a day after the FAA began issuing restrictions that airlines and other aircraft operators will face at many airports when AT&T and Verizon launch a new, faster 5G wireless service on Wednesday.
The agency is still investigating whether those wireless networks interfere with altimeters, which measure the height of an aircraft above the ground. Altimeter data is used to help pilots land in poor visibility.
The devices operate on a portion of the radio spectrum that is close to the range used by the new 5G service called C-Band.
This week’s FAA actions are part of a larger battle between the airline regulator and the telecom industry. The telecom companies and the Federal Communications Commission say that 5G networks pose no threat to aviation. The FAA says more research is needed.
The FAA is conducting tests to find out how many commercial aircraft have altimeters that may be vulnerable to spectrum interference. The agency said this week it will estimate the percentage of those planes soon, but has not put a date on it.
“Aircraft with untested altimeters or in need of modification or replacement will not be able to perform low-visibility landings where 5G is deployed,” the agency said in a statement.
The order for Boeing 787s concerns 137 aircraft in the US and 1,010 worldwide. The 787 is a two-course aircraft that is popular on longer routes, including many international flights.
The FAA said based on information from Boeing, the 787s may not switch properly from flight mode to landing mode if there is interference, which could delay activation of systems that help slow the plane.
AT&T and Verizon have twice agreed to delay the activation of their new networks amid concerns from airline groups and the FAA, most recently after the FAA and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg got in the way of the airline industry. Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson warned that flights could be canceled or diverted to avoid potential security risks.
Under an agreement with the telecom companies, the FAA has designated 50 airports with buffer zones in which the companies will shut down 5G transmitters or make other changes to limit potential interference until early July.
The 50 include the three major airports in the New York City area – LaGuardia, JFK and Newark Liberty – O’Hare and Midway in Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth International, Bush Intercontinental in Houston, Los Angeles International and San Francisco.
That telecom concession was modeled on an approach used in France, although the FAA said last week France needs a more drastic reduction in the range of cell towers around airports.
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