5G systems could pose interference risks for aircraft equipment, aviation groups claim

Aviation groups caution about potential interference between 5G systems and aircraft equipment, particularly during situations of low-visibility landings.

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Wireless providers are set to activate new 5G systems near major airports, potentially causing disruptions for airline passengers. Aviation groups have long warned about the possibility of 5G signals interfering with aircraft equipment, particularly devices that rely on radio waves for measuring altitude during low-visibility landings. Previous predictions of massive flight groundings due to interference did not materialise as telecom companies agreed to limit signal power around busy airports, allowing airlines an additional year to upgrade their planes. While the leader of the largest pilots’ union believes crews can manage the impact of 5G, he criticises the risk posed by how wireless licenses were granted.

US transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg recently alerted airlines to potential disruptions, citing a portion of the nation’s fleet that has not been upgraded to protect against radio interference. Most major US airlines claim readiness, except Delta Air Lines, which still has 190 planes awaiting altimeter upgrades due to supply constraints. Delta does not anticipate flight cancellations but plans careful routing to mitigate risks. Delta’s non-retrofitted planes primarily include various models of Airbus jets, while Boeing jets and Delta Connection planes have upgraded altimeters.