Airline fears around 5G may finally be over

The concern that 5G signals could cause massive flight delays appears to finally be over now that Delta has upgraded its airplanes to avoid interference.

Reuters reported the airline has finished updating the radio altimeters in its currently in-service fleet. Other aircraft out for planned maintenance will also be outfitted with the new altimeters. Delta told the Associated Press the update “means no Delta aircraft will be subject to additional weather-driven constraints.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had said certain 5G signals could impact the altimeters pilots use to measure how far they are from the ground during low visibility situations. Although altimeters and 5G cell towers don’t really share the same spectrum, the FAA believed some aircraft altimeters may have a problem distinguishing the radio signals. Thus began a fight between telecommunications companies and the FAA over where 5G signals could be turned on and with how much signal power.

Carriers were eventually able to turn on their 5G signals in most locations, but they continued to block off areas around airports while airlines installed updated altimeters.

Starting in July, airlines were prohibited from landing planes in certain low-visibility situations if their altimeters weren’t updated, leading US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to warn of potential flight delays and cancellations. Nearly all domestic aircraft were, with Delta being the major exception — the airline had 190 aircraft without the updated altimeters.

With those aircraft update, the 5G–airline crisis may finally be over.


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