FAA issues new warning for Boeing 787 operators ahead of Verizon, AT&T 5G rollout

AT&T and Verizon's 5G service in the C-band spectrum will roll out on Jan. 19

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a new airworthiness directive to Boeing 787 operators ahead of Verizon and AT&T's rollout of 5G service in the C-band spectrum on Jan. 19.  

Boeing 787

Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (Boeing)

According to the agency, the directive will require operators to take additional precautions when landing on wet or snowy runways at airports where 5G C-band service is deployed. Approximately 137 aircraft in the U.S. and 1,010 worldwide will be impacted by the order. 

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The Federal Communications Commission granted C-band licenses to the telecommunications giants last year after Verizon and AT&T bid $45.45 billion and $23.41 billion, respectively, at an auction to help bolster their existing 5G networks.


Last month, executives from Boeing and Airbus penned a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg calling for the 5G rollout to be postponed. 

The letter warned that the move could potentially interfere with radio altimeters on aircraft, which provide critical altitude information for pilots when operating in low visibility environments. It cited an economic analysis from Airlines for America, which estimates the rollout could result in delays, diversions, or cancellations for 345,000 passenger flights, 32 million passengers and 5,400 cargo flights, $2.1 billion in annual operating costs annually for U.S. airlines and A4A cargo operators and $1.59 billion in lost wages and productivity annually for passengers and shippers.

After already delaying the rollout to Jan. 5, Verizon and AT&T agreed to an additional two-week delay requested by the Department of Transportation in order to give the FAA more time to study 5G's potential impact on radio altimeters. Wireless industry trade group CTIA, the Aerospace Industries Association, and Airlines for America also agreed to share data in order to help the FAA and the FCC address the concerns. 

Boeing 787

Boeing 787 Dreamliner. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

"During the two-week delay in deploying new 5G service, safety experts determined that 5G interference with the aircraft’s radio altimeter could prevent engine and braking systems from transitioning to landing mode, which could prevent an aircraft from stopping on the runway," a spokesperson for the FAA told FOX Business in a statement on Friday. "The Airworthiness Directive requires crews to be aware of this risk and to adopt specific safety procedures when landing on these runways."


A Boeing spokesperson told FOX Business it is "working closely with airlines, radio altimeter suppliers, the telecommunication industry and regulators to ensure that every commercial airplane model can safely and confidently operate when 5G is implemented in the United States."

The FAA emphasized that it continues to coordinate with Boeing to address possible 5G C-band interference risks to other aircraft models. 

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In addition to the directive, the FAA has issued a list of 50 airports identified as having the greatest impact to the U.S. aviation sector which will be subject to C-band exclusion zones for at least six months. 

Under the terms of an agreement with the FAA, AT&T and Verizon will provide data on base stations, operating characteristics, and planned deployment locations and "continue to work in good faith with aviation stakeholders to support the technical assessment of individual altimeters and airport environments." 

Boeing 787

Boeing Flight Test Evaluation, Boeing South Carolina, Flight Test, 787-10 Dreamliner, ZC001, First Flight, 03/31/2017 (Boeing)

Assuming no additional issues, AT&T and Verizon will be able to use their C-band spectrum licenses without extra restrictions after July 5.