Airlines warn that 5G services scheduled to launch on Wednesday could render a number of aircraft unusable.
The CEOs of major passenger and cargo ships in the United States warned on Monday of an impending "catastrophic" aviation crisis on Wednesday, when AT&T and Verizon are set to implement new 5G service.
Airlines warned that the new C-Band 5G service could potentially render a significant number of widebody aircraft unusable and "could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans abroad."
"Unless our large hubs are approved to fly, the vast majority of travelers and shipping will essentially be grounded," wrote the top executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and others.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned that potential interference could affect sensitive aircraft instruments such as altimeters and impact on low visibility operations.
"This means that on a day like yesterday, more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers will be subject to cancellations, diversions or delays," it warned.
Action is urgent, the letter also added, signed by UPS Airlines, Atlas Air, JetBlue Airways and FedEx Express. "To be honest, the nation's trade will stall."
The letter, which was seen by the Reuters news agency, went to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, director of the White House National Economic Council Brian Deese, Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Communications Commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel.
Airlines for America, the group that organized the letter, declined to comment. The public authorities did not immediately comment.
AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly the entire C-Band spectrum at a $ 80 billion auction. last year, on January 3, agreed to buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce interference risks and take other steps to reduce potential interference for six months. They also agreed to postpone the broadcast for two weeks until Wednesday, which temporarily averted a safety stop in aviation.
Major airline executives and Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun held a lengthy call with Buttigieg and Dickson on Sunday to warn of the looming crisis, officials told Reuters.
Airlines are calling for "5G to be implemented throughout the country except within the approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) of airport runways" at some major airports, and they say "immediate action is needed to avoid significant operational disruption for air passengers , shippers, supply chain and supply of necessary medical supplies ”.
The airlines added that flight restrictions will not be limited to operations in bad weather: "Several modern safety systems on aircraft will be considered useless, causing a much bigger problem than we knew ... Aircraft manufacturers have informed us that there are huge parts of the operational fleet it may be necessary to have grounded indefinitely. "
The carriers added that they are calling for action to ensure that "5G is implemented except when the towers are too close to the airport runways until the FAA can determine how it can be safely achieved without catastrophic disruption".
The FAA said Sunday it had estimated it had released 45 percent of the U.S. commercial aircraft fleet to make low-cost landings at many airports, where the 5G C-Band will be deployed from Wednesday. The airlines noted on Monday that the list did not include many major airports.