With the rollout of 5G cellular networks by the major phone companies, the overall impact to commercial aviation has been limited. However, there remains some pockets of impact that may continue to pose issues, both for commercial and large group charter flights.
What is the problem?
The frequency that the more powerful 5G network operates on is close to a frequency that an important piece of equipment on aircraft, a radar altimeter. A radar altimeter is essentially a radio that is used to tell how far above the ground the aircraft is during the final minute of flight before landing. The information the radar altimeter provides is relied upon by other systems in the aircraft that pilots use to land the aircraft during times of limited visibility (instrument meteorological conditions). The FAA believes that some radar altimeters on aircraft are susceptible to interference from 5G and may provide inaccurate readings during landing.
What airports are affected?
The 5G rollout has started with major cities around the United States, and therefore typically the airports in the largest cities are the ones that are impacted. Even though an airport may be affected, impacts of 5G may have more impact to some runways than others depending on weather conditions. The FAA has published a list of airports that are affected by 5G and is updating it as 5G is turned on in more cities each month.
What aircraft are impacted the most?
The FAA has tested and cleared radar altimeters used on most commercial aircraft for operation to airports that are in 5G areas. As of the time of this blog's posting the FAA estimates that over 90% of the commercial fleet has been cleared. This means that most large group charter flights, including football air charter, should be ok. While 90% is as great number, that 10% is still a very large portion that can impact passengers. This impact is currently predominately on regional aircraft, including those used for smaller sports team air charter.
One radar altimeter model in particular that has yet to be cleared is what is on the Embraer 135/140/145 aircraft. Some models on the Embraer E170/175/190/195 are also yet to be approved. This impact was seen when Alaska Airlines had to cancel all flights out of Paine Field airport in Seattle due to the E170 aircraft not being able to takeoff during low visibility weather due to 5G interference.
Private jets are not immune to impact from the 5G rollout either. Each private jet aircraft type must receive approval from from the FAA for low-visibility operation into airports and runways with possible 5G interference.
How does this impact your group air charter, and what is Air Planning doing to prepare?
Should your flight operate from or to an airport the FAA has identified as being susceptible to 5G interference, the Air Planning team will work with the aircraft operator to determine if there may be an impact to your charter flight. Seeing that the FAA has already cleared a vast majority of the commercial aviation fleet, the impact should be minimal.
However, depending on the weather conditions, the aircraft operator may need to adjust their flight plans accordingly. Those plans may consist of delaying the flight to wait for weather to improve, diverting to an airport where the weather is better or to an airport with no 5G interference, or by limiting payload due to using more restricted runways or diverting the flight path. Whatever the impact, the Air Planning team will be there to ensure a plan is in place and communicated onward prior to flight.