There are concerns that the telecom system could interfere with some types of radio altimeter – equipment critical for landings.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said: “Because the proposed 5G deployment involves a new combination of power levels, frequencies, proximity to flight operations, and other factors, the FAA will need to impose restrictions on flight operations using certain types of radar altimeter equipment close to antennas in 5G networks.”
The Boeing 777 aircraft – the leading long-haul, wide-bodied plane worldwide – is particularly affected.
While part of the deployment has been suspended, there are concerns that the problem could affect operations at a number of key airports.
British Airways has cancelled out and back trips from London Heathrow to New York JFK, Chicago and Los Angeles. Some other services have had planned 777 aircraft replaced by other types.
A spokesperson for British Airways told The Independent: “Safety is always our priority and although we had to cancel a handful of services, we’ve done everything we can to minimise inconvenience for our customers.
“We’ve changed the aircraft operating some of our flights and rebooked those on cancelled services onto alternatives.
“We’re disappointed that, like other airlines, some of our customers’ travel plans have been disrupted.”
Virgin Atlantic does not operate the Boeing 777, and told The Independent: “We are in regular communication with regulatory bodies and aircraft manufacturers to ensure compliance with all airworthiness directives and to ensure a continued safe operation, with minimum operational disruption to our US services.”
Japan Airlines is telling passengers: “Boeing has notified us that 5G signals for US mobile phones, which will begin operating in the US on January 19, 2022, may interfere with the radio wave altimeter installed on the Boeing 777.
“We have decided not to use this aircraft-type on the US mainland routes until safety is confirmed, and we regret to cancel the flight that cannot be changed to Boeing 787.”
Emirates cancelled flights from its hub in Dubai to Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Miami, New York Newark, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle, as well as the return journeys.
Emirates told passengers: “Customers can simply hold on to their Emirates ticket and when flights resume, get in touch with their travel agent or booking office to make new travel plans. Emirates regrets any inconvenience caused.
“We are working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns, and we hope to resume our US services as soon as possible.”
Links to Los Angeles, New York JFK and Washington DC, which are operated by Airbus A380 aircraft, are unaffected.
Air India cancelled flights from Delhi to New York JFK, Chicago and San Francisco, and from Mumbai to New York Newark.
America’s air safety regulator said: “The FAA will continue to work every day to reduce effects of this disruption as we make progress to safely integrate 5G and aviation.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies