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FAA issues 5G warning for Boeing 737s but says practical effects are limited

Telecommunications networks are rolling out next-generation
5G systems that the FAA has previously warned could impact
sensitive airplane electronics such as radio altimeters.

Telecommunications networks are rolling out next-generation
5G systems that the FAA has previously warned could impact
sensitive airplane electronics such as radio altimeters.

The Federal Aviation
Administration has warned that 5G wireless operations can
interfere with radio altimeters in Boeing 737s, impeding a
crew’s ability to safely fly or land, but FAA officials stressed
the issue poses little practical effect for airlines.

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Despite dire-sounding language in the FAA airworthiness
directive issued on Wednesday about potential effects on 737
landings, it does not apply to aircraft flying into areas where
the 5G environment has been rendered safe for aviation, which
the FAA said includes nearly all airports.

Also Read | Explained | Why is 5G rollout a problem near U.S. airports?

The overwhelming majority of commercial airports have either
established 5G wireless buffer zones around them or lack 5G
operations altogether, meaning that planes landing there are
protected from radio interference warned about in the FAA
directive, agency officials said on Wednesday.

The FAA said the directive posted on Wednesday for most of
Boeing’s 737 aircraft is very similar to notices issued
previously for 737 MAX aircraft, as well as 747, 757, 767 and
777 jetliners.

However unlikely as a practical matter, Wednesday’s
directive warns that certain airplane systems may not properly
function “during approach, landings, and go-arounds” due to
interference with radio altimeters from wireless broadband
operations in the 3.7-3.98 GHz frequency band (5G C-Band).

Also Read | U.S. FAA details 50 airports that will have 5G buffer zones

This in turn could lead to “increased flight crew workload
while on approach with the flight director, autothrottle, or
autopilot engaged, which could result in reduced ability of the
flight crew to maintain safe flight and landing of the
airplane,” the directive said.

A Boeing spokesman said in a statement: “we support the
Airworthiness Directive, as it mandates the same guidance that
Boeing provided to operators back in January”.

Telecommunications networks are rolling out next-generation
5G systems that the FAA has previously warned could impact
sensitive airplane electronics such as radio altimeters.

The Federal Communications Commission and the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration (NITA) have
vowed to improve coordination on spectrum management after a
dispute over 5G aviation.

The spectrum rolled out in January, but only after VerizonCommunications and AT&T agreed to delay deploying5G wireless towers near airports.


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