Airlines’ concerns about radio interference from 5G communications and damage to aircraft equipment could soon be a thing of the past. Delta is the latest major airline to update its aircraft’s radio altimeters to prevent further flight delays.
Delta Airlines has completed upgrading its existing fleet with new radio altimeters to avoid interference from 5G communications. The company’s other aircraft undergoing scheduled maintenance will also be fitted with new altimeters. Delta said none of its aircraft will now be subject to additional restrictions related to inclement weather.
From July, airlines were banned from landing planes in poor visibility unless their planes’ altimeters were updated. This prompted US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to warn of potential flight delays and cancellations. By this time almost all airlines had modernized their fleets, except for Delta, which had 190 aircraft with old altimeters.
Earlier, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had raised concerns that some 5G signals could interfere with the operation of radio altimeters, which pilots use to determine distance to the ground in poor visibility.
Even though altimeters and 5G towers don’t share the same RF space, the FAA considered that some altimeters might not be able to detect radio signals. This created a conflict between carriers and the FAA over where and at what power 5G could be turned on.
Airlines were eventually able to turn on 5G in most locations, but continued to block areas around airports until all airlines fully upgraded their fleet’s radio altimeters.