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Airlines Sound Alarm as 5G Rollout Looms

Dave Calhoun (Via Dave Calhoun/Twitter)

The CEOs of major US passenger and cargo carriers have issued a dire warning about the impending deployment of AT&T and Verizon’s new C-Band 5G service, stating that it could create a catastrophic aviation crisis. The airlines are warning that the new service could make a significant number of widebody aircraft unusable, potentially stranding tens of thousands of Americans overseas. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also voiced concerns, stating that the new service could interfere with sensitive airplane instruments such as altimeters and impact low-visibility operations.

The airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and others, have sent a letter to government agencies, including the White House National Economic Council, the US Transportation Secretary, the FAA Administrator, and the Federal Communications Commission, urging immediate action to avoid the crisis. The letter warned that the nation’s commerce would grind to a halt if the crisis is not averted. The airlines are asking the government to suspend the deployment of 5G service near airport runways until the FAA can determine how it can be safely accomplished. They are also urging the government to work with AT&T and Verizon to create buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce interference risks and take other steps to cut potential interference.

The chief executives of the airlines, including Dave Calhoun of Boeing, also held a call with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson to warn of the looming crisis. The airlines are warning that flight restrictions will not be limited to poor weather operations, and that multiple modern safety systems on aircraft will be deemed unusable, causing a much larger problem than initially thought.

Dave Calhoun (Via Dave Calhoun/Twitter)

The FAA has cleared an estimated 45 percent of the US commercial airplane fleet to perform low-visibility landings at many airports where 5G C-band will be deployed, but the airlines note that the list does not include many large airports. The airlines are urging the government to take immediate action to ensure that 5G is deployed except when towers are too close to airport runways until the FAA can determine how it can be safely accomplished without catastrophic disruption. The airlines are also warning that the crisis is not limited to domestic flights, but could also impact international flights, stranding tens of thousands of Americans overseas.

The situation is expected to come to a head on Wednesday, when AT&T and Verizon are set to deploy their new C-Band 5G service. The airlines are calling for immediate action to avoid the crisis, stating that the nation’s commerce would be severely impacted if the crisis is not averted. The situation highlights the complex and delicate issue of balancing the rollout of new technology with the safety concerns of the aviation industry.

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