Airlines are demanding the Federal Communications Commission delay a scheduled rollout of new 5G wireless service near dozens of major airports, saying it could pose a safety risk by interfering with electronics that pilots rely on.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing large U.S. passenger and cargo carriers, made the request in an emergency filing Thursday. It warned thousands of flights could be disrupted, resulting in more than $1 billion in losses, and said the FCC has failed to adequately consider the harm that 5G service could do to the industry.

“Aircraft will not be able to rely on radio altimeters for numerous flight procedures and thus will not be able to land at certain airports,” the group said in the filing.

Radio altimeters measure the height of planes above the ground.

The group said the new service will affect all three major airports in the New York City area — LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, New Jersey — and others including O’Hare in Chicago and Logan in Boston.

Airlines for America says 5G could pose a safety risk by interfering with electronics that pilots rely on.
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It is seeking extra time for the FCC and the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates airlines, to resolve issues around aviation safety related to a type of 5G service called C-Band.

The FCC declined comment.

Both AT&T and Verizon Communications are planning to deploy the C-Band spectrum wireless service on Jan. 5, which they won the rights to by agreeing to pay more than $80 million during a government auction.

Both wireless carriers previously agreed to a one-month delay in rollout of 5G, which provides faster internet speeds and allows users to connect more devices to the internet without slowing it down.

Backpacker young woman checking her train arrival in timetable board
All three major airports in the New York City area will be affected by the rollout of 5G, according to Airlines for America.
Getty Images

Late Friday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson asked AT&T and Verizon to delay its plans, citing safety concerns for aircraft operations.

Buttigieg and Dickson said in a letter to the companies’ top officials that moving ahead with the activation “will result in widespread and unacceptable disruption as airplanes divert to other cities or flights are canceled,” while a delay around certain airports would have minimal short-term impacts.

Spokespersons for both wireless carriers said they were reviewing the request.

With Post wire services

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