US Pilot Union Urges 5G Rollout Halt at Airports Until Permanent ‘Fix’ Targets Safety Record Risks

© REUTERS / Mike BlakeAn American Airlines Airbus A321-200 plane takes off from Los Angeles International airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 28, 2018
An American Airlines Airbus A321-200 plane takes off from Los Angeles International airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 28, 2018 - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.01.2022
Earlier, US mobile carriers AT&T and Verizon announced they were delaying the introduction of their 5G network near some airports "at their discretion” in acknowledgement of airlines’ concerns about flight safety and the adoption of new tech.
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has voiced concerns that the two-week delay in activating 5G towers around airports, negotiated between airlines and cellphone provider giants, is not enough to ensure safety standards are met.
The trade group representing 61,000 pilots at 38 US and Canadian airline companies underscored that the rollout delay acknowledged the seriousness of aviation operational risks.
CEOs of major US airlines warned on 17 January of a looming “catastrophic“ aviation crisis linked with 5G deployment, originally slated for Wednesday, due to the interference of sensitive aircraft electronics like radio altimeters that could disrupt flights.
A Southwest Airlines flight, equipped with radar altimeters that may conflict with telecom 5G technology, flies 500 feet above the ground while on final approach to land at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, New York, U.S., January 6, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.01.2022
US Carriers AT&T, Verizon Delay 5G Rollout Near Some Airports Over ‘Frustration’ With FAA
However, the ALPA emphasised that until a permanent “fix” was found, airline passengers and shippers “deserve a commitment from the telecom companies not to launch the new 5G service at any of the airport locations identified by the FAA as being susceptible to 5G interference.”
The union took aim at the Federal Communications Commission and telecom companies for being oblivious to “red flags” about 5G for years.
“The aviation community has been raising red flags about 5G interference with aircraft instruments – concerns that have been ignored by the Federal Communications Commission and the telecom companies, creating the mess we’re in today,” it said.
The Association touted America’s “safest air transportation system in the world” and praised the commitment of US pilots to “keep it that way.” However, the current approach to the issue was denounced as “no way to protect that safety record and America’s vital aviation industry, which is so critical to our nation’s economy and the global supply chain.”

5G Rollout ‘On Pause’

This comes as a showdown between the nation's major airlines and cellphone providers saw the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and telecom giants AT&T and Verizon agree to pause a portion of their 5G-C rollout.
As the US mobile carriers were slated to deploy their new services, top executives of major passenger and cargo carriers in the US in a letter on Monday called for “immediate intervention” from the White House, FAA, FCC, and DOT “to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies.”
FILE - In this April 23, 2013 file photo, a United Airlines jet departs in view of the air traffic control tower at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.01.2022
US FAA Says Disruptions to Flights Still Possible Due to 5G Despite Deal With AT&T, Verizon
The fears have been prompted by the fact that the high-speed 5G internet uses so-called C-band frequencies similar to those used by aircraft to measure their altitude. Earlier, international carriers such as Air India, Emirates, ANA, and Japan Airlines cancelled some flights to the United States over 5G technology concerns.

"At our sole discretion we have voluntarily agreed to temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the FAA to provide further information about our 5G deployment," AT&T said in a statement on Tuesday.

Verizon echoed the stance, saying, "We have voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation's airlines have not been able to fully resolve to navigate 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries."
US President Joe Biden applauded the move by the cellphone provider giants as potentially allowing to avoid “devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90 percent of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled."
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