Because of 5G safety concerns, the Boeing 777 aircraft is at the centre of a wave of international flight cancellations to and from the United States.
A bevvy of airlines was forced to cancel a slew of U.S. flights from January 19 onwards after Boeing supposedly advised them it wasn’t safe to fly the 777 to particular airports where C-Band 5G was in use on Tuesday night.
The Seattle-based aircraft manufacturer has so far declined to publish what it told airlines, but the warning and list of restrictions were reportedly harsh enough to elicit an immediate and dramatic response from a number of major 777 operators.
Emirates, the world’s largest Boeing 777 operator, is one of the worst-affected carriers. The Dubai-based airline stated late Tuesday evening that it would be cancelling U.S.-bound flights to nine major airports, including Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth, and Houston, indefinitely.
Despite having a more diverse fleet and fewer affected planes, British Airways was forced to cancel a slew of US-bound flights scheduled on Boeing 777 aircraft on Wednesday.
Both ANA and Japan Airlines said that they will cancel scheduled flights to the United States since they were unable to replace the trips with the largely unaffected Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. After cancelling certain US services on Tuesday, Air India cited the same reason.
The FAA has not cleared a model of radio altimeter used by the Boeing 777 in places where C-Band 5G is in operation, due to concerns that the cellular signal could interfere with aviation instrumentation. Despite the FAA’s objections, AT&T and Verizon both turned on C-Band 5G on Wednesday.
Despite the fact that the telecom companies vowed not to turn on C-Band 5G towers near some airports, the FAA issued a slew of restrictions in the form of Notices to Air Mission (NOTAM’s) following the launch.
Because this capability is dependent on input from the radio altimeter, certain aircraft are prohibited from making fully autonomous landings in adverse weather or poor visibility.
Other planes may be in danger, but they can still fly safely if safeguards are taken. It seems, though, that Boeing has assessed the 777 is at significantly greater risk of radio altimeter interference from 5G transmissions.
Because the Boeing 777 is the most popular widebody aeroplane ever built, this might be a major problem for airlines. More than 1,600 twin-engined long-haul aircraft in various passenger configurations have been purchased.
The jet is also a cargo workhorse, with more than 300 777F freighters ordered during its lifespan.
Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and British Airways have all placed orders for the long-awaited but much-anticipated next-generation 777X.
The White House congratulated AT&T and Verizon for keeping certain C-Band 5G antennas offline on Tuesday, but Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg refused to say what specific precautions the US government was taking to minimise more disruptions in air travel.
In a statement, Buttigieg commented: “We recognize the economic importance of expanding 5G, and we appreciate the wireless companies working with us to protect the flying public and the country’s supply chain.”
“The complex U.S. airspace leads the world in safety because of our high standards for aviation, and we will maintain this commitment as wireless companies deploy 5G.”