The Federal Aviation Administration has announced that more planes will be able to land in low-visibility conditions despite the rollout of 5G C-band, including some models of the Boeing 777 aircraft that’s used by many international airlines. According to a statement from the regulatory agency, it’s cleared three more models of radar altimeters as safe and reliable, even in areas where the upgraded cellular technology has been rolled out. This change comes after several international airlines announced on Tuesday that they were suspending flights to some US airports due to the 5G C-band rollout.
According to the FAA’s statement, which you can read in full below, it cleared three additional altimeters on Wednesday morning, after clearing two on January 16th. The FAA has been in a back-and-forth with AT&T and Verizon, claiming that the companies’ cell towers could interfere with equipment needed to safely land planes in low-visibility conditions. Earlier this month the carriers delayed their rollouts to give the FAA more time to test and clear altimeters, and have said they’ll limit C-band expansion around certain airports that frequently have low visibility conditions.
With the additional safety buffer that AT&T and Verizon announced on Tuesday, this should clear some models of Boeing 717, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, MD-10/-11 and Airbus A300, A310, A319, A320, A330, A340, A350, and A380. The FAA says that these new approvals should “allow an estimated 62 percent of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at airports where wireless companies deployed 5G C-band.”
While 62 percent of airplanes seems low, it’s higher than the FAA’s previous estimates; when the agency announced its new list of approvals on January 16th, it said they covered around “45 percent of the U.S. commercial fleet.” The administration has also said that, despite Wednesday’s clearances, “flights at some airports may still be affected.”
There were hints that this change would be coming — earlier on Wednesday, ANA and Japan Airlines announced that they would be resuming normal operations thanks to an FAA notification that cleared the 777 (the FAA’s announcement wasn’t public at the time). In a statement to The Verge, US-based Southwest Airlines said that it “expects minimal disruptions today after the telecomm companies announced their delay in 5G expansion near U.S. airports.”
The FAA’s full statement:
The FAA issued new approvals Wednesday that allow an estimated 62 percent of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at airports where wireless companies deployed 5G C-band.
The new safety buffer announced Tuesday around airports in the 5G deployment further expanded the number of airports available to planes with previously cleared altimeters to perform low-visibility landings. The FAA early Wednesday cleared another three altimeters.
Even with these approvals, flights at some airports may still be affected. The FAA also continues to work with manufacturers to understand how radar altimeter data is used in other flight control systems. Passengers should check with their airlines for latest flight schedules.
Airplane models with one of the five cleared altimeters include some Boeing 717, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, MD-10/-11 and Airbus A300, A310, A319, A320, A330, A340, A350 and A380 models.
For additional 5G information, including the airport list, please visit www.faa.gov/5g