US Airline Bosses Warn Of ‘Catastrophic’ Aviation Crisis Due To 5G

The chief executives of major airlines and cargo carriers in the United States have warned of an impending “catastrophic” aviation crisis in less than 36 hours.

This is because AT&T and Verizon are finally set to deploy their twice delayed C-Band 5G service on Wednesday, which the airline CEOs allege could render a significant number of widebody aircraft unusable.

The CEOs also warn these 5G networks “could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas” and cause “chaos” for US flights.

Fear-mongering letter

These dire warnings came in a letter written by the arline CEOs to US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, and White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese.

“Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the travelling and shipping public will essentially be grounded,” the chief executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and others said in a letter, first reported by Reuters.

“This means that on a day like yesterday, more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would be subjected to cancellations, diversions or delays,” the letter cautioned.

The letter urged that action is urgent.

It was also signed by UPS Airlines, Alaska Air, Atlas Air, JetBlue Airways and FedEx Express.

“To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt,” the letter reportedly states.

Flight cancellations

Reuters reported that UA airlines late on Monday were considering whether to begin cancelling some international flights that are scheduled to arrive in the United States on Wednesday.

Airlines for America, the group that organised the letter, declined to comment.

But this is the same group that last month asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to halt deployment of new 5G wireless service around many airports, despite not a single report of 5G networks causing problems for aeroplanes in other countries.

That call came after Airbus Americas CEO Jeffrey Knittel and Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun issued a letter just before Christmas, in which they urged the Biden administration to delay the rollout 5G service on 5 January 2022.

Both AT&T and Verizon had initially refused the government request for an additional delay, but then at the last minute agreed to delay the launch until 19 January.

This was after they had already agreed a previous delay due to of aviation concerns.

AT&T and Verizon also agreed to adopt exclusion zones for six months around some airports, in a move to mirror safeguards adopted by France.

The carriers are to be provided “with a list of no more than 50 priority airports that they would propose to be subject to the C-Band exclusion zones”.

Aviation concerns

Wireless experts will no doubt point to a deliberate scaremongering campaign from the aviation industry, and it is hard to disagree when they use colourful language such as ‘havoc’ and ‘catastrophic’ consequences, and ‘commerce grinding to a halt’.

At the centre of their argument, is that 5G signals in the US could interfere with plane instruments such as radar altimeters. which measure the distance between aircraft and the ground.

These are used by pilots to make safe landings in low visibility conditions.

In November the 5G concerns in the aviation sector went public in a big way, when the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it shared the aviation industry’s ‘deep concern’ over the rule change that allows the commercial use of 5G C-band spectrum.

The FAA however is in a long-running dispute with another US agency, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has said it does not believe 5G systems would interfere with flight equipment.

The FCC pointed out that other countries have studied using this C-band spectrum in wireless networks for more than 17 years, with no reports of any problems in the aviation space.

This and other evidence led the FCC in early 2020 to allow 5G operators to use the C-band, a range of radio frequencies between 3.7 and 4.2 gigahertz.

The FCC reviewed competing industry studies about the safety risks and said in a March 2020 order that “well-designed equipment should not ordinarily receive any significant interference (let alone harmful interference)”.

The aerospace and airline sector met with the FCC last August, saying at the time that “major disruptions to use of the National Airspace System can be expected from the rollout of 5G” and adding that the technology could force the FAA to “drastically reduce aviation operational capacity”.

The CTIA, which represents network operators, said operators can use C-band spectrum “without causing harmful interference to aviation equipment”.

No evidence

The aviation concerns must be frustrating for industry experts, who have noted that numerous 5G networks are already safely operating in the band in 40 countries, without a single report of 5G causing harmful interference with air traffic of any kind.

Indeed, experts point out there does not seem to be any valid scientific or engineering basis to justify a 5G delay, and there is overwhelming evidence that 5G operates safely in the C-Band without causing harmful interference to air traffic.

The fact 5G signals in this C-band spectrum have been operating in many countries for some time – countries in which US airlines fly in and out of every day, means the aviation sector would have seen a problem long before now.

And the US already has an added a layer of protection called a guard band, that is hundreds of times greater than the separation that exists between wireless and other critical spectrum users.

Verizon and AT&T declined comment on Monday about the latest aviation scare-mongering attempt.

They argue C-Band 5G has been successfully deployed in about 40 other countries without aviation interference issues.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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