Airlines vs. 5G

I fly the A 350 also and this is a big f’ing mess !! It will affect the A 350 . The radar altimeter is tied to a multitude of systems and a failure or malfunction is a big deal, especially when operating in low or zero visibility conditions!! Having your phone on now is a big deal !


OCGreg & 330Ute describe well the risks. “Additional vigilance in monitoring the auto-throttles…” That’s just pure insanity. If I was a B777 pilot, I’d be scared as hell to fly instrument approaches to minimums.

The interview with Emirates CEO reveals the origin - selling off frequencies without much research into the impact.

Between the 737 MAX’s “self certify” debacle and now this fundamental breakdown between the FAA and the FCC, there seems to be an overriding rush to get new products to market ASAFP, or there just aren’t enough regulators to find this kind of stuff.


In the 737 MAX situation, Brazilian regulators quickly found the NCAS and started asking questions, where here in the US Boeing didn’t even bother to tell the FAA, who completely trusted Boeing.

In this 5G situation, Canadian regulators found the issue long ago?

The FAA and FCC have become shadows of themselves. If all they’ve become is auction officials and data entry clerks for manufacturers who certify themselves… some major reform is needed.


So this seems to be a legit reason - Telecommunication companies have taken a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’; not offering potential issues (or solutions) and FCC is turning a blind eye in asking tough questions to make telecom do their due diligence (someone else’s problem). Meanwhile, FAA is too cozy with airlines/manufacturers that they aren’t going to regulate unless absolutely necessary in a reactionary model or call other agencies out.

I guess with the airlines speaking out heavily now, I wonder why they didn’t before? Maybe they were just behind closed doors and getting reassurances and now they are blowing the lid off to the media because they were gaslit? Was telecom/FCC shady and hid details? The interview from the Emirates CEO makes it seem like they had no clue until like a couple days ago. Canada knew? 5G has been around for a while at lower powers and they knew c-band was going to open up and they knew which frequencies were sold - did they just assume the US would do it like Europe or other places and no one realized they weren’t until the very last minute?

Just seems like there was potential to raise flags earlier from FCC, Telecom, FAA, Airlines/Manufacturers, and no one did. Which seems crazy since this happened in other countries/regions and there were known differences in the US rollout.


Maybe part of the answer to your reasonable question is in how the 737 MAX issue came to exist:

In competing against Airbus, Boeing wanted to market to US airlines that the MAX required no additional pilot training. None.

In a market where the ULCC (ultra low cost carriers - Spirit, Allegiant, etc) are pressuring the LCCs (Southwest, JetBlue), in turn adding more pressure on the mainline airlines… there’s not a lot of resource in the airlines beat up by a roller coaster financial reality looking at the nuances of which equipment might be impacted by 5G, etc.

Looks to me like a perfect storm - atrophied airline safety + atrophied FAA + FCC not really looking at the impact.

It wouldn’t surprise me if retired / furloughed aviation thinkers started to raise the alarms about this, and it seeped into the aviation ecosystem and then BAM… here we are.

EDIT - looks like aviation groups have been warning about this for a long time, going back to 2017. Looking more & more like Telcom vs Airlines (and big expenditures required)

Airlines Warn 5G on C-Band May Cause Major Disruptions | Digital Trends

EDIT2 - the Digital Trends article is really informative & fascinating.

  • Problems were identified early on, there was a working group formed to hash out the issues, but it disbanded in late 2020 because they couldn’t reach a consensus.

  • Telcom group contested many of the claims from the aviation group.

  • Aviation groups disputed the downplaying of the issues by Telcom, claiming the CTIA group "displays a lack of understanding concerning aviation and aerospace design, certification, manufacturing, and operations, including the fundamentals of aviation safety analysis.”

In one rebuttal, the aviation group points out that Telcom criticized the use of 40 year old radio altimeters… when in fact these instruments were made in 2020.

In another, Telcom states “the lack of reports of widespread altimeter interference” disproves the aviation report, an argument without evidence. However, in the aviation safety world, a lack of reports is not proof that there will not be interference.

This is a pretty serious clash of titans.


Forever etched in my mind is seeing the Turkish Airlines 737 pancaked into the ground short of the runway in Amsterdam as we broke out of the clouds due to a radar altimeter malfunction. Not saying it was a 5G issue but it shows the importance of the radar altimeter! This is not a situation that we as pilots should have to deal with. Yes, we are trained to go around if something is amiss,but if you introduce something that could possibly cause a dangerous situation just because someone wants to share a picture of what they were eating at a faster rate then we are crossing a point that is beyond comprehension. Profit over safety seems to be the motive of the Telecom industry.


AT&T and Verizon paid tens of billions of dollars to secure those radio frequencies. Yes, they will turn a profit, but they invested a lot of money to make that profit. I could flip the argument and say that the airlines - by not putting out the money to update their equipment to keep it within its own radio bandwidth - is valuing profit over safety. Yes, it would be expensive, but why should the expense of one bloated industry prevent another bloated industry from pursuing their business plan?

I have no dog in this fight, and of course I want air traffic to be safe. When the airlines knew that this was coming, however, instead of trying to fix the issues on their side they only petitioned the government to block the cell carriers from using the radio frequencies they purchased (as far as I can determine from what I have read). Again, where the radio frequencies do not overlap there has to be some logical compromise between the two sides and not this “give me my way or I take my ball and go home” philosophy that seems to be driving the current argument.