Airlines vs. 5G

Yes, I know this is a sports board, and I apologize to those whose delicate sensibilities I offend. This question has been nagging at me for a little while now though, and I know there are plenty of people here who will have insight on this topic that I am just not getting.

So I keep hearing stories about the airlines wanting to stop 5G from being implemented. The phone companies keep pushing the rollout date back, but the airlines sound like they want it blocked altogether, so I went to Google to see if I could figure out why. I welcome any feedback on my comments here in case I have misunderstood.

From what I understand the airlines use a radio band between 4.2 GHz and 4.4 GHz to track their altitude. (Thanks ham radio license for helping me understand what this means!) 5G in the US (it is different in different parts of the world) will use a radio band between 3.7 GHz and 3.98 GHz, thus staying outside the 200 Hz buffer recommended by the FCC. The airlines are saying that the buffer is not enough, as signals could bleed through the buffer (like on an old radio when you were in between two stations and could hear both stations simultaneously) and possibly interfere with their altimeters.

Now the airlines could install filters to make their equipment more sensitive, but instead they are arguing that it is better to block technological advancement so that they do not have to change. And the fact that they are threatening to ground flights if they don’t get their way seems crazy to me. It is like if the airlines were in one lane on the freeway and 5G were in another lane, the airlines are threatening to pull off the freeway and stop what they are doing if 5G drives anywhere near them. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Again, if I am misunderstanding the issue, I hope someone here can educate me so that I can see what the problem actually is. Oh, and even though the question is technical in nature, Go UTES!

I can’t educate you on this, but is it not possible to actually test if they have an effect on airplane instrumentation?

This was a debate previously with cell phones, which they later admitted was no issue… because their instruments were already insulated from this interference. Who knows.

I will say that I don’t particularly love the 5G towers everywhere - they’re pretty ugly.

is it not possible to actually test if they have an effect on airplane instrumentation?

I imagine that they have, but the few articles I had time to read basically suggested that the airlines are more worried about potential issues than actual issues. Again, from what I read this seems to be pretty unique to the US. In Europe, they are using 3.4 GHz to 3.8 GHz to run their 5G, so there is 400 Hz between the two signals which is why (I guess) it is not an issue there.

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Don’t have a clue about any of this other than the public discourse that has been printed in the NY Times and other media outlets. Locally, a number of Sovereign Citizens have protested the 5G rollout because they believe it causes cancer and invades their privacy by retrieving personal data from them passively.

Honestly, unless the compression algorithms have improved recently, I am really having a hard time understanding the benefits of the change. Then again, living in what has been essentially a cell phone dead zone, the upgrade could be the greatest innovation ever and it wouldn’t matter because I won’t get the service.

I don’t know a ton about 5G, but a little bit. Part of its rollout is because the band it is using has a far shorter range than previous cell technologies. In the past they’ve build towers and placed their antennas in strategic places that cover large areas. Because the 5G range is much shorter they’ve had to build little towers all over the place. If you’ve noticed these strange black poles going up in your neighborhood, that is 5G. I have at least two I’ve observed each about a block away from my house in different directions.

You also may remember a few years back when they ‘digitized’ over the air broadcast of television and your standard receiver televisions stopped working. That was also to take that bandwidth for other communication purposes.

But I digress. My point in bringing that up is given the relative short distance the 5G signal can actually travel, can they at least not activate it in the immediate vicinity of airports?


I know nothing about this (honestly hadn’t even heard about it until this morning), but here’s the letter from the airline CEO’s.

Seems like is something that should have been resolved before, I dunno, the day before the service supposed to go live?


I’ll also admit I don’t know a ton about this and most of what I understand has been discussed above. It does seem like a money thing. Seems like the airlines are doing a risk assessment and there isn’t a 0% chance of issues so they are crying about it and don’t want to spend any money ensuring or upgrading their equipment but it probably is fine (but probably isn’t good enough if there is a flight diversion, emergency, crash, etc.).

As pointed out, 5G doesn’t travel as far so there are more transponders all over the place. Seems like less of an issue or could be controlled around airports. 5G will be useful to enable technologies like self-driving cars and IoT (internet of things).

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From my experience as a flight crew Airman in the Air Force I chalk this up to flightsafety.


I’m all for flight safety, particularly if the core difference is people have to take 0.5 seconds vs 0.2 seconds to download cat videos and porn.




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I saw the article on CNN today and wondered the same.

My take is like yours. I know nothing about the technical issue, but it’s hard to fathom nobody in the review process bringing this up and nailing down an answer ahead of this fiasco.

Not sure what ya’ll are talking about, but my w2 says I made 5G last year. Haters gonna hate


5G’s! Have I mentioned donating to here? :wink:


The president of Emirates Airlines explains a little bit what the issue is with the planes and why it seemed to take everyone by surprise:

We were not aware that the power of the antennas in the United States have been doubled compared to what’s going on elsewhere. We were not aware that the antenna themselves have been put into a vertical position rather than a slight slanting position, which then taken together compromise not only the radio altimeter systems but the flight control systems on the fly by wire aircraft. So on that basis we took that decision late last night to suspend all our services until we had clarity…

So it appears that most didn’t understand how the US carriers were rolling out the tech and thus don’t actually know if it is a danger or not. Further, what it may interfere with is the radar altimeters that help the plane land.

Still don’t fully get it, but now it makes a little more sense on the ‘why’.


I read that too. Definitely explained the issue better. What a mess that could have been avoided with some communication. Corporate America!

The is from a fellow Trojan alumnus. He is a former Navy and current Delta pilot. Kinda scary:

"Yep, it’s a big bad deal that will adversely affect the instrument flight and approach capabilities of many different aircraft types. The 5G signals in the United States are at higher power levels than elsewhere in the world and also with closer proximity to airports. Canada has also approved 5G in the C-Band, but with restrictions against using C-Band in the vicinity of 26 airports and other measures to ensure aviation safety.

*These instrument approach operations requiring radio altimeter are now prohibited in the presence of 5G C-Band wireless broadband interference: *
*- Instrument Landing System (ILS) Instrument Approach Procedures SA CAT I, SA CAT II, CAT II & CAT III *
*- Required Navigation Performance (RNP) Procedures w/ Authorization Required (AR), RNP AR IAP *
*- Automatic Landing operations *
- Manual Flight Control Guidance System operations to landing/head-up display (HUD) to touchdown operation.
- Use of Enhanced Flight Vision System (EFVS) to touchdown.

Some info from the Airline Pilot’s Union:
"Radar altimeter interference from 5G signals can take the form of loss of radar altitude information or, worse, incorrect radar altitude information unknowingly being generated. There have been fatal accidents associated with incorrect radar altitude, most recently Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 in Amsterdam in 2009.

Altitude information derived from radar altimeters has been deeply integrated into aircraft systems and automation, with the latest aircraft using it to change aircraft handling qualities and prepare systems such as ground spoilers and thrust reversers for deployment prior to touchdown. This is in addition to radio altimeter use for autoland and in Category (CAT) II/III and Required Navigation Performance (RNP) AR approaches."

No aircraft specific impact is expected on my A-350. Most of the other Airbus aircraft are affected, including the 320’s & 330’s.

The 787’s have some changes to operational procedures associated with Landing Systems and Landing Distance Calculations.

The 737 MAX has pending operational procedure changes for thrust reversers and speedbrake deployment for takeoff and landing, as well as additional vigiliance around autopilot and autothrottle behavior.

I couldn’t find anything specific but my AA buddy who flies the 777 mentioned that 5G will essentially make that platform a VFR approach only aircraft.

I highly suggest you stop blowing off the ‘phone must be in airplane mode’ PA’s and help your flight crews police the ‘less informed’ folks around you. No one wants to be ‘exhibit A’, but someone is likely going to be.

Big. F*****. Mess.*"



I still don’t get why the red flag at the last minute. This has been coming for years. Isn’t just that there wasn’t true transparency or no one asked the right questions? Or just general gaslighting?


That’s what I don’t understand. Almost anyone can stick out they’re arm am touch an electrical engineer in this country.
Seems like billion dollar investiture would prompt due diligence from both principle parties and other invested stakeholder’s.