FAA clears most passenger planes to land at Sea-Tac with 5G signals limited to buffer zones

Jan 19, 2022, 3:34 PM | Updated: Jan 20, 2022, 7:08 am
5G Sea-Tac Airport...
Planes landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Airlines voiced concerns this week over new 5G frequencies that have been activated by cell phone companies, which they fear could interfere with landing airplanes. On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration cleared most large passenger aircraft to land at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which was among the airports where there were concerns over 5G signals.

Major US airlines warn of flight disruptions Wednesday as new 5G service starts

The new C-Band 5G frequencies that have gone active are close to the frequencies used by the radio altimeters on planes. These altimeters use data from the ground to determine a plane’s altitude on landing.

Initially, the FAA and a number major airlines were worried that there could be interference from the new 5G system that could mess with the altimeters, asking that the full rollout of these new frequencies be delayed until more testing can be done. That has Sea-Tac Airport using restricted 5G zones for the time being.

“There’s a buffer zone around critical airports that have these low-visibility approaches, and they can also play with the power levels of the 5G antennas, so there’s even a greater safety buffer between the band that they’re using and the band that’s required for aircraft instruments,” Mike Stengel, an aviation insider, told KIRO Newsradio’s Chris Sullivan.

The FAA also released on update Wednesday that added Sea-Tac to the list of airports where roughly 62% of commercial airplane models — including most of Boeing and Airbus’ primary passenger planes — can land in low visibility situations in areas where 5G signals are present. Concerns remain over smaller short-haul planes, which have not yet received clearance.

That said, the FAA warned that “flights at some airports might still be affected,” and that some airlines may opt to delay or cancel flights themselves. That includes Emirates Airline, which announced Tuesday that it would be suspending flights to Sea-Tac — as well as eight other U.S. airports — over concerns related to 5G signals.

KIRO Newsradio reporter Chris Sullivan contributed to this story

Local News

MyNorthwest Staff

Instance of monkeypox investigated in King County amid ‘growing international outbreak’

A presumptive case of monkeypox is being investigated in King County, according to Public Health, Seattle and King County.
20 hours ago
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

As pandemic-fueled surge in online shopping slows, Amazon subleases warehouse space

Amazon is planning to sublease some of its warehouse space now that the pandemic-fueled surge in online shopping has eased.
20 hours ago
People donate blood at Bloodworks Northwest on March 17, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Kar...
MyNorthwest Staff

Blood platelet shortage impacting medical treatments amid lack of donors

Ongoing since the pandemic, the blood platelet shortage is reaching critical levels as deliveries are being rationed among local hospitals.
20 hours ago
MyNorthwest Staff

Gun violence prompts early summer closures of Golden Gardens and Alki Beach

Golden Gardens and Alki Beach will close at 10 p.m. May 27 through Sept. 4 over concerns of gun violence in years past.
20 hours ago
Dalton Day

Seattle loses battle over Burke-Gilman Trail’s ‘missing link’ as project funds sunset

A spate of legal challenges over the 1.4-mile stretch of the Burke-Gilman Trail's missing link jeopardizes its completion.
20 hours ago
Frank Sumrall

Number of King County homeless up nearly 14% since 2020, 57% remain unsheltered

In 2020, the percentage of homeless who had access to shelter on a consistent basis was 53%. Now the amount of homeless with shelter is just 43%.
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
FAA clears most passenger planes to land at Sea-Tac with 5G signals limited to buffer zones