LOCAL NEWS

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

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