In the US, the chief executives of major airlines warned of an impending “catastrophic” aviation crisis in fewer than 36 hours, once key telecommunications companies deploy a new 5G service.

Basic Information

The airlines asserted that a nation-wide 5G launch on the part of telecommunications companies would interrupt airline operations, rendering a significant number of airplanes unusable, and potentially leaving passengers stranded at airports around the world.

“Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded,” wrote the chief executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines in a letter.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), potential interference from 5G bands could negatively affect sensitive airplane instruments and significantly influence low-visibility operations.

“This means that on a day like yesterday, more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would be subjected to cancellations, diversions or delays,” noted the letter.

Airlines canceling flights

As if there weren’t enough flight cancellations in recent weeks, as of late Monday, airlines started to consider cancelling international flights scheduled to arrive in the United States this week.

“With the proposed restrictions at selected airports, the transportation industry is preparing for some service disruption. We are optimistic that we can work across industries and government to finalize solutions that safely mitigate as many schedule impacts as possible,” said Boeing.

Urgent action required

In a letter to the White House, which was signed by UPS Airlines, Alaska Air, Atlas Air, JetBlue Airways and FedEx Express states, “[provided the 5G rollout continues as intended] To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.”

The 5G issue could potentially force cancellations of 15,000 flights annually, affect more than 1.25 million passengers and disrupt tons of cargo, reports Reuters.

$80 billion C-Band spectrum

In 2021, major telecommunications corporations paid nearly $80 billion for the rights to repurpose the C-Band spectrum that the FCC had recently put up for auction. In other words, they paid for an enablement tool and planned to launch 5G.

As 2021 drew to a close, telecommunications providers agreed to temporarily delay their C-Band rollouts to assist the FAA in addressing any concerns regarding airplane interference. Proposals were put forth to limit the power output of cell towers close to airports, and a further two week delay was arranged.

Since then, one telecommunications carrier states that it has “voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports,” and several carriers have expressed displeasure with the FAA for what is characterized as a lackadaisical response in planning for 5G deployment.

At least 40 nations around the globe have successfully and safely deployed 5G technology without any threats to aviation services.

White House response

President Biden stated that his team has been “engaging non-stop with wireless carriers, airlines and aviation equipment manufacturers to chart a path forward for 5G deployment and aviation to safely co-exist.” The administration also mentioned that work on this will continue until a long-term solution is identified and implemented.

*This article will be updated as the story continues to develop. Please see CyberTalk.org’s past coverage of 5G here. Lastly, be sure to register for CPX 360 2022, the premiere cyber security event of the year. Register now.