By B.N. Frank
From 9 to 5 Mac:
Airline 5G mess still not over, expect flight delays from this weekend
The airline 5G mess – where some planes with older radio altimeters could be confused by strong 5G signals when making their final approach to US airports – still isn’t over.
Airlines were given until July 1 to update their fleets, but some won’t meet this weekend’s deadline for three reasons, and their flights will be subject to delay as a result …
The airline 5G mess
If you’re not familiar with the background, it’s a rather bizarre story of an embarrassing clash between two different government agencies.
As satellite TV is essentially no more, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided it made sense to reallocate these frequencies to something else. As they were suitable for 5G use, it auctioned off the rights to use them to mobile carriers. Verizon and AT&T jointly spent $68M on acquiring the rights to what was then labeled 5G C-band.
Another government agency, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), appeared to discover this fact after the event. It said that there was a risk of 5G C-band spectrum interfering with radio altimeters.
Radio altimeters on board airliners and some other aircraft bounce a radio signal off the ground and time the return signal to determine the altitude of the plane. This is much more accurate than pressure-based altimeters, and is used during the final approach and landing. It plays an especially important role in conditions of poor visibility, when autoland is used, which relies on very precise readings from radio altimeters.
The FAA had been voicing concerns about the potential risks of C-band interference since 2015, but it seems that the agency didn’t directly communicate these to the FCC until very late in the day.
The result was a very public and embarrassing argument between the two. It did seem clear that only older radio altimeters were at risk, and there was limited evidence even for these. After a series of proposed delays and compromises, a deal was done.
This imposed temporary 5G C-band restrictions at around 50 major airports, and gave the aviation industry until July 1, 2023, to check their older aircraft, updating radio altimeters as required.
Many airliners won’t meet the deadline
The FAA expressed doubts that airlines would be able to update their entire fleets by July 1, proposing to move the deadline back to February 2024. That proposal was rejected, but it now seems the FAA was right.
The WSJ reports Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg admitting that 20% of aircraft used for domestic flights, and 35% of those used for international flights, still haven’t been updated.
With the July 1 deadline now approaching after about 18 months, more than 80% of the domestic fleet and about 65% of international aircraft that fly to the U.S. have radar altimeters that won’t be susceptible to interference from 5G signals, Buttigieg said.
Holdup due to three factors, say airlines
Airlines say that although the retrofit is a simple one in principle, there are three practical issues that have made it impossible to meet the deadline.
First, finding enough aircraft downtime to carry out the work. Planes don’t earn any money when sat on the ground, so airlines schedule them as tightly as possible, so fitting in unexpected hanger time can be tricky.
Second, supply-chain problems. With every noncompliant aircraft that flies in or to the US needing the upgrade, suppliers have struggled to keep up with demand.
Third, certification delays. When new safety-critical equipment is fitted to an airliner, it needs to be certified safe for use, and that too takes time.
Some flight delays inevitable
International airlines say that they are minimizing the risk of delays by ensuring that, wherever possible, only compliant aircraft are used for international flights to the US. For domestic flights, noncompliant aircraft are (again, when possible) being used to serve airports that are less susceptible to poor weather.
However, Buttigieg warns that we should expect some delays in poor weather.
Buttigieg is warning of the potential for air-travel disruption ahead of [the] deadline […] Aircraft that haven’t gone through the necessary equipment changes won’t be cleared to land in certain weather conditions when visibility is low […]
“There’s a real risk of delays or cancellations,” Buttigieg said in an interview. “This represents one of the biggest—probably the biggest—foreseeable problem affecting performance this summer.”
Of course, in the U.S., 5G interference issues are not isolated to aviation equipment. In 2020, utility companies and associations filed lawsuits against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for not protecting utility infrastructure from potential electrical interference issues with 5G (see 1, 2). In June 2022, telecom provider, SpaceX claimed Dish’s 5G satellites would cause interference issues affecting Starlink satellite service. In July 2022, DirecTV and RS Submit warned about satellite interference issues and The Department of Defense (DoD) reported it also had been trying to resolve potential 5G network interference issues with military radar. In August 2022, a bi-partisan group of senators requested that the FCC reconsider harmful interference risks with associated Ligado’s network before allowing it to be activated. Fortunately in September, Ligado cancelled trial network plans, perhaps because of a report that also warned about interference. In October 202, another report revealed that the telecom industry was aware of “known RF challenges” with 5G as well.
Other issues associated with 5G include poor service (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) and cybersecurity risks (see 1, 2). Additionally, a growing number of Americans don’t want 5G towers and antennas installed in or near their communities due to additional risks associated with them (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16).
Opposition to 5G is worldwide and this has limited, slowed, and/or stopped deployment in some locations. Since 2017, doctors and scientists have been asking for moratoriums on Earth and in space due to biological and environmental health risks (see 1, 2, 3, 4) and the majority of scientists oppose deployment. Since 2018 there have been accounts reported worldwide of people and animals experiencing symptoms and illnesses after it was activated (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. 6, 7, 8). In 2019, telecom executives gave U.S. congressional testimony that they had NO scientific evidence that it’s safe. In 2021, a federal court ruled in favor of petitioners who sued the FCC for NOT updating wireless radiation guidelines (including 5G) since 1996. Some researchers have also warned that 5G activation may be contributing to COVID-19 infections as well as hundreds of thousands if not millions of bird deaths.
Activist Post reports regularly about 5G and other unsafe technologies. For more information, visit our archives and the following websites:
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Originally Posted at www.activistpost.com
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