Explained: How Can 5G Affect Airlines

After cancelling eight India-US flights on Wednesday citing safety concerns over 5G internet rollout in the US, Air India resumed six flights on B777 aircraft on Thursday

Update: 2022-01-20 11:39 GMT

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After the cancellation of eight India-US flights on Wednesday citing safety concerns over the launch of 5G services in the US, Air India has finally received a go-ahead from Boeing to operate its Boeing 777 aircraft and fly over a thousand stranded passengers.

How can 5G services affect flight operations?

Telecom companies Verizon and AT&T use C-band frequencies for their 5G network. These frequencies are near the airwaves which are used by radio altimeters installed in aircrafts. A radio altimeter is the only sensor in an aircraft which gauges its height above ground. Hence, any disturbance in the readings of the altimeter due to 5G C-band interference can prove to be hazardous for airplanes operating in low-visibility conditions.

Why have Boeing 777 and 787 aircrafts allowed to operate?

The radio altimeters in Boeing aircraft are found to be more robust against 5G C-band frequencies even in low-visibility conditions. Therefore, Air India, which also operates Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft, had sought clearance from the American airplane manufacturer for the two aircrafts. Boeing on Thursday approved the airline's B777 aircraft and permitted its operation from India to those US airports located in the vicinity of 5G transmission stations.

Radio altimeters fitted in certain types of aircraft, including B777, would not be affected by 5G services, said the US aviation regulator, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in a directive on Thursday.

How many flights are running on India-US route on Thursday?

Air India has resumed six India-US flights on B777 aircraft on Thursday. These include Delhi-New York, New York-Delhi, Delhi-Chicago, Chicago-Delhi, Delhi-San Francisco and San Francisco-Delhi.

Over a thousand stranded passengers, including the 734 who were accommodated in hotels on Wednesday, are flying on Thursday.

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