Medevac helicopter flights could be grounded by new 5G rollout

Alan Levin, Bloomberg News on

Published in Business News

Additionally, many airports that could be subject to prohibitions on landing in low-visibility conditions weren’t included on the list of 50. Portland International and Metro Oakland International in California, for example, have sophisticated instrument landing systems that the FAA will restrict starting Jan. 19, yet 5G towers can be located nearby.

“As a result, those airports will be left vulnerable to sweeping operational impacts during periods of low visibility once 5G is turned on January 19,” the Regional Airline Association, a trade group representing the smaller partners of the major carriers, said in a press release.

The Airports Council International-North America trade group called the list of 50 airports “irrelevant” since it expects limitations despite the agreement with the mobile service providers.

“This attempt at a short-term fix does not address a number of critical uncertainties about the potentially adverse impact of 5G on certain low-visibility approaches,” ACI-NA said in a statement.

The actual impact on flights remains unclear as the FAA and the aviation industry sort through a dizzying set of variables, including the precise location of thousands of 5G cell towers, the power at which they will transmit signals and the direction signals are beamed.

There has been at least some cause for optimism in recent days as the wireless companies have begun sharing more precise data, allowing aircraft manufacturers to fine-tune analysis on the degree to which their devices are at risk.


“Since the agreement with the wireless companies was reached, the agency has made progress to safely reduce the risk of delays and cancellations as wireless companies share more data and manufacturer altimeter testing results arrive,” the FAA said in a statement on Wednesday.

January deadline

But even if companies are able to file applications with the FAA attempting to show their equipment is safe, the FAA may not be able to review and approve them before the Jan. 19 deadline.

The combination of helicopters’ vulnerability and the lack of measures to protect them has the industry greatly concerned, the Helicopter Association International said Thursday in a statement.


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