FAA Continues To Clear 5G Aircraft Backlog

 - January 28, 2022, 4:06 PM

The FAA is continuing to update which aircraft and airports are susceptible to 5G C-band interference as it works to clear large blocs of commercial aircraft models for operations at and around locations with these wireless transmitters and allows wireless carriers to operate them at full power. Earlier today, the agency announced that the wireless carriers had provided “more precise data about the exact location of wireless transmitters and supported more thorough analysis of how 5G C-band signals interact with sensitive aircraft instruments.” This enabled the FAA to use this data to “determine that it is possible to safely and more precisely map the size and shape of the areas around airports where 5G signals are mitigated, shrinking the areas where wireless operators are deferring their antenna activations.” 

But the problem of 5G interference with the operation of general aviation aircraft and helicopters persists, and the FAA said it would continue “to work with helicopter operators and others in the aviation community to ensure they can safely operate in areas of current and planned 5G deployment.” 

While the FAA noted that it had cleared 90 percent of the U.S. commercial fleet to operate nominally at airports near 5G service, pockets of problems remain. Yesterday, the FAA issued a new airworthiness directive (AD) affecting operations of Boeing 737 Max aircraft at airports where 5G interference continues.

The AD “requires revising the limitations and operating procedures sections of the existing airplane flight manual (AFM) to incorporate limitations prohibiting the use of certain minimum equipment list (MEL) items, and to incorporate operating procedures for calculating takeoff and landing distances, when in the presence of 5G C-band interference as identified by [notams].” It specifically notes the potential impact of 5G interference on radar altimeter-dependent systems, including “thrust reverser deployment, spoilers, speed brake deployment, and increased idle thrust, regardless of the approach type or weather.” The Max AD applies to approximately 177 airplanes in the U.S. and 657 worldwide.

On Monday, the FAA issued another AD covering 5G interference that prohibits Boeing 747-8, 747-8F, and 777 airplanes from landing at airports where 5G interference could occur, citing a rationale similar to that with regard to its actions on the 737 Max. It is important to note that the AD does not apply to landings at airports where the FAA determined the aircraft altimeters are safe and reliable in the 5G C-band environment. It also does not apply to airports where 5G isn’t deployed. The AD affects approximately 336 airplanes in the U.S. and 1,714 worldwide. Affected aircraft were given two days to comply.