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Several international airlines cancel flights into US amid 5G roll out concerns

January 18th, 2022

Several international airlines have announced they will cancel flights into the United States from Wednesday amid uncertainty about interference between new 5G cell phone service and critical airplane technologies.

Emirates, Air India, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines all announced service cuts citing the issue.

Transportation regulators have already expressed concerns that the version of 5G that was scheduled to be switched on in January could interfere with some airplane instruments. Many aviation industry groups shared those fears, despite reassurances from federal telecom regulators and wireless carriers.

Specifically, the Federal Aviation Administration has been worried that 5G cellular antennas near some airports – not air travellers’ mobile devices – could throw off readings from some aircraft equipment designed to tell pilots how far they are from the ground. Those systems, known as radar altimeters, are used throughout a flight and are considered critical equipment.

The FAA had already moved in December to issue an urgent order forbidding pilots from using the potentially affected altimeters around airports where low-visibility conditions would otherwise require them. That new rule could keep planes from getting to some airports in certain circumstances, because pilots would be unable to land using instruments alone.

AT&T and Verizon both announced Tuesday that they would delay activating 5G on some towers around certain airports. The wireless technology’s rollout near major airports had been scheduled for Wednesday.

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