HARRISBURG, PA. (Erie News Now) – The rollout of 5G near many airports around the country has been delayed due to concerns regarding interference with critical airplane instruments.
According to airport officials in Harrisburg, at least 88 airports around the country, including Harrisburg International Airport (HIA), will see a delay in the activation of nearby 5G towers.
However, airport officials in Harrisburg, and many around the country, are unaware of where the towers are even located.
“Because of proprietary reasons, Verizon, AT&T do not have to disclose publicly where their 5G towers are,” said HIA Spokesperson Scott Miller.
Miller and other airport officials around the county rely on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to communicate any issues surrounding air travel, planes, radio frequencies, and more.
“The FAA is very convinced that there is a tower nearby here that could impact the instrument landing system here in Harrisburg,” said Miller.
The FAA notified dozens of airports around the country about possible interference with an aircraft’s radio altimeter.
“The radio altimeters are key because they tell the airplane how far from the runway it is, how high it is and how fast it’s going,” said Miller.
The altimeter is a pivotal instrument for pilots to use, especially during inclement weather when visibility is low.
The issue is the uncertainty surrounding the interaction of 5G frequencies and an aircraft’s radio altimeter frequency.
“Frequencies they use are very close to the radio frequencies used by aircraft when landing during poor weather conditions,” Miller added.
Miller also says larger aircrafts like Boeing and Airbus have just been cleared to operate in areas where 5G towers are nearby.
However, smaller aircrafts have not been cleared, which presents a barrier for regional airports.
“Airplanes 90 seats and below offer a lot of flights. In fact, here in Harrisburg in February, that was 65% of our flights. Those have not been certified yet to fly under these conditions, so that’s where the concern is right now,” said Miller.
He says manufacturers of smaller aircrafts are currently working with the FAA to ensure their aircrafts are certified like most larger ones are.
Aviation professionals say the matter is in the hands of the FAA.
“The burden lies primarily with the FAA. We depend on them to tell us if there is a safety issue, to tell us what it is, and we’ll deal with it accordingly,” said Gabe Monzo, President of the Aviation Council of Pennsylvania. “The airlines are talking directly to the FAA and saying, OK, what are we going to do? I think the best thing is that the airlines and the FAA are working this out,” Monzo added.
Altimeter issues from 5G can potentially lead to flight cancellations or landing diversions to another airport.
Most importantly, airport officials say they, and the FAA, are working to ensure flights are safe, even if it means a slower rollout of 5G or a different airport to land at.
“At the end of the day, this is a potential safety issue that is being addressed and is being resolved,” said Miller. “Safety is a top priority for all airlines. A pilot is not going to take a chance on his or her safety, and they’re not going to put the people on the aircraft in danger as well.”
“Safety is our utmost concern, and we’ll we stick by that,” Monzo added.