Federal safety regulators are advising pilots of some Boeing jets to take extra precautions while landing on wet or snowy runways near upcoming 5G service, claiming that wireless network interference could cause the planes to require more space to land.
Interference might prevent systems like thrust reversers on Boeing 787s from kicking in, leaving just the brakes to halt the plane, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA stated that this “may prohibit an airplane from stopping on the runway.”
Similar orders for other planes could be made in the following days. The FAA has requested information on a number of models from Boeing and Airbus. Boeing said it is collaborating with suppliers, airlines, telecom firms, and regulators “to ensure that every commercial airplane type can safely and confidently operate when 5G is adopted in the United States.”
The Boeing order comes just a day after the FAA started announcing limits that airlines and other aircraft operators would encounter at numerous airports when AT&T and Verizon begin new, faster 5G wireless service on Wednesday.
The FAA is still looking into whether those wireless networks may interfere with altimeters, which measure the height of an airplane above the ground. When visibility is poor, altimeter data is used to assist pilots in landing.
The gadgets employ a piece of the radio spectrum called C-Band, which is similar to the range used by the future 5G service.
The FAA’s moves this week are part of a bigger battle between the aviation authority and the telecommunications industry. 5G networks, according to telecom providers and the Federal Communications Commission, do not pose a threat to aviation. More research is needed, according to the FAA.
The Federal Aviation Administration is undertaking testing to determine how many commercial flights have altimeters that could be affected by spectrum interference. The FAA stated this week that it expects to estimate the percentage of those planes soon, but gave no timeframe.
“Where 5G is deployed, aircraft with untested altimeters or that require retrofitting or replacement will be unable to make low-visibility landings,” the agency stated in a statement.
The Boeing 787 order encompasses 137 planes in the United States and 1,010 jets worldwide. The Boeing 787 is a two-aisle airliner that is used for longer journeys, such as international flights.
According to the FAA, if there is interference, the 787s may not correctly convert from flight to landing mode, which might delay the activation of devices that help slow the plane.
Because of concerns voiced by aviation groups and the FAA, AT&T and Verizon have agreed to delay the activation of their new networks on two occasions, most recently after the FAA and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stepped in on the aviation industry’s side. Flights could be grounded or redirected to prevent potential safety issues, according to Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson.
The FAA designated 50 airports as buffer zones in which telecom providers will switch off 5G transmitters or make other measures to prevent potential interference until early July, as part of an agreement with the businesses.
The 50 airports include LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark Liberty in New York City, O’Hare and Midway in Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth International, Bush Intercontinental in Houston, Los Angeles International, and San Francisco International.
Although the FAA indicated last week that France required more significant cutbacks in cell-tower reach around airports, the telcos’ agreement was fashioned after one used in France.