Ok, but what does that all mean? In short, that one of the most critical tools pilots rely on to manually land a plan safely in hazardous conditions could potentially be in jeopardy. (Potentially because this is all highly theoretical. The launch of 5G has been pushed back as the government, the FCC and the FAA are all trying to hash this out as we type).
But if you’re looking for a more in-depth analysis, we’ve got you covered…
Your phone, you know it, you love/hate it, you spend too much time on it. But have you ever wondered how it actually works? There’s not just random internet ether out there; at its most basic, cell service is basically radio waves that ping off of cell towers via radio frequencies and loop back to your phone. Yes, these are the same frequencies used by music stations…and airlines.
Frequencies are measured in gigahertz, which have ranges all over the electromagnetic spectrum that impact speed and reachability. But, in the US, the gigahertz allotted for 5G frequencies are really close to those employed by airlines, specifically altimeters. Not only that, but in rural areas the towers are permitted to emit frequencies in higher levels than those that are considered normal. This only strengthens concern over the impact said frequencies could have on the efficacy of tools used in a manual touchdown.
Again, while this all seems mainly theoretical, the powers that be are worried. So much so that the FAA has already issued a statement telling pilots not to use their altimeters at over 80 airports ahead of the now postponed rollout. Some international carriers have already cancelled flights to major US cities including Japan’s All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Air India, British Airways, and Emirates. Others have begun the painstaking process of swapping out Boeing aircrafts (remember, Airbus remains too cool to care), which can have a devastating ripple effect based on the original trip footprint and maintenance schedule intended for each individual plane.