FAA Clears More Planes To Land In Poor Visibility Near 5G Towers

By Washington Post
Posted on 01/25/22 | News Source: Washington Post

The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday it had approved 90% of the nation’s commercial plane fleet to land when visibility is poor at airports where there is a risk of interference from 5G wireless signals.

The latest approvals, which include more small regional jets and some turboprops, should smooth airline operations, which have faced some disruption since the rollout of new 5G services by Verizon and AT&T last week. But the agency has warned some planes will prove too susceptible to interference to be cleared.

The FAA has been assessing devices called radio altimeters, which use radar to give precise measurements of a plane’s altitude, to determine whether they could give inaccurate readings because of interference from new 5G towers. The towers and radars operate on neighboring airwaves.

“This work has shown some altimeters are reliable and accurate in certain 5G areas; others must be retrofitted or replaced,” the agency said in a post to its website.

Disruptions to air service have continued this week. The Seattle Times reported that all the flights in and out of Paine Field in Everett, Washington, were canceled Monday due to the combination of bad visibility and the risk of 5G interference. The airport is served by Horizon Air, a regional airline and its president to the Seattle Times that its Embraer E175 jets still faced some restrictions.

Last week, regional planes trying to land at San Francisco International Airport were diverted in similar weather.

Major airlines warned of severe disruptions to travel in the days before the activation of the new wireless service – which had already been twice delayed – prompting the White House to broker a deal with Verizon and AT&T to create buffer zones around airports. The agreement appears to have largely been a success, with relatively few cancellations or delays, according to airline executives.

But in an update Tuesday, the FAA said it would need to review the approvals it has granted each month to determine if the activation of new towers poses additional risk.

“We’re working with the wireless companies to get us tower activation information as early as possible so we can plan ahead,” the FAA said.