5G and Aviation Safety
The FAA is working to ensure that radio signals from newly activated wireless telecommunications systems can coexist safely with flight operations in the United States, with input from the aviation sector and telecommunications industry.
Check here for information and updates as this work continues.
The Safety Issue
Safety is our mission, and it guides all of our decisions. In the United States, 5G services launched in 46 markets on January 19, using frequencies in a radio spectrum called the C-band. These frequencies can be close to those used by radio altimeters, an important piece of safety equipment in aircraft. To make sure that this does not lead to hazardous interference, the FAA requires that radio altimeters are accurate and reliable.
Disruption Risk to Aviation from 5G
Because the proposed 5G deployment involves a new combination of power levels, frequencies, proximity to flight operations, and other factors, the FAA must impose restrictions on flight operations using certain types of radio altimeter equipment close to antennas in 5G networks.
These safety restrictions could affect flight schedules and operations. The FAA continues to work every day to reduce effects of this disruption as we make progress to safely integrate 5G and aviation.
Collaborative Work Underway to Reduce Delay, Cancellation Risk
Is my airport affected?
This map shows the percentage of the U.S. commercial fleet and aircraft types that can land at U.S. airports with low-visibility approaches or a high-volume of aircraft with systems that could be adversely affected by 5G.
If your local airport is not on this map, it is likely for one of two reasons:
- The airport isn't in the 5G deployment area.
- The airport doesn't currently have the runway systems needed to support low-visibility landings, even without 5G.
* This map is not intended to replace any NOTAM or other official safety information.
Progress during the January 5-18, 2022, deployment delay
During that time, the FAA:
- Received vital 5G transmitter location and power level information from the wireless companies.
- Facilitated data sharing between avionics manufacturers and wireless companies.
- Worked with airlines to help manage and minimize potential delays and cancellations in affected areas.
- Determined that some GPS-guided approaches may be used at certain airports.
- Educated aviation stakeholders.
- Worked with airlines on how they can demonstrate altimeters are safe and reliable in certain 5G C-band environments. This is known as the Alternative Method of Compliance (AMOC) process.
Questions and Answers
I’ve heard about 5G already being deployed in other countries, such as France and Japan, with no issues. Why would the U.S. be different?
The U.S. airspace is the most complex in the world, and the FAA holds ourselves and our aviation sector to the highest safety standards. Deployments of 5G technology in other countries often involve different conditions than those proposed for the U.S., including:
- Lower power levels
- Antennas adjusted to reduce potential interference to flights
- Different placement of antennas relative to airfields
- Frequencies with a different proximity to frequencies used by aviation equipment
NOTAMs, AMOCs. The FAA uses many acronyms. Translate for me.
NOTAM stands for Notice to Air Missions. They provide information on restrictions or procedures that pilots and others need to follow.
AMOC stands for Alternative Method of Compliance. The AMOC process allows operators or manufacturers to demonstrate alternative ways to mitigate an unsafe situation. This process is used to clear altimeters that have been proven to be reliable and accurate in certain high-powered 5G environments.
What are radio altimeters?
Radio altimeters provide highly accurate information about an aircraft’s height above the ground. Data from these radio altimeters informs other safety equipment on the plane, including navigation instruments, terrain awareness, and collision-avoidance systems.
The FAA says 5G “may” cause interference. So how do you know there’s a safety risk?
Aviation in the U.S. is the safest in the world. That’s because we rely on data to mitigate risk, and never assume that a piece of equipment or a given flight scenario is safe until this can be demonstrated. If there’s the possibility of a risk to the flying public, we are obligated to restrict the relevant flight activity until we can prove it is safe.
Why does an aircraft still need an approved altimeter if there is a bigger buffer now around airports?
The FAA is working with manufacturers to determine which altimeters are accurate and reliable in the U.S. 5G deployment. The agency continues to review manufacturer testing data to determine how robust each model is.
What about helicopters?
The FAA allows air ambulance operators to continue using safety-enhancing night vision goggles in areas where the aircraft’s radio altimeter could be unreliable due to 5G C-band interference as identified by NOTAMs. Operators must comply with specific conditions and limitations. Similar to commercial aircraft, helicopters can perform day and night operations that do not require the use of a radio altimeter.
Why haven’t the NOTAMs gone away?
The wireless companies' actions reduce the amount of 5G around airports, but do not fully eliminate it. The NOTAMs let pilots and others know that there is 5G present. Any restrictions in a NOTAM do not apply if an aircraft has an approved altimeter to operate. Since some aircraft still do not have an approved altimeter, the restrictions outlined in the NOTAM still apply.
Are the AMOCs you’ve issued going to remain in effect indefinitely?
No. The AMOCs that we issued in advance of the rollout of 5G C-band will expire at the end of each month. That’s because the wireless carriers have towers that will go live at the beginning of each month as they build out their service.
So AMOCs could change every month?
Yes. We’re working with the wireless companies to get us tower activation information as early as possible so we can plan ahead.
Why are we only hearing about this now?
The FAA, the aviation industry, telecommunications companies, and their regulators, have been discussing and weighing these interference concerns for years, in the U.S. and internationally. Recent dialogue has helped to establish information sharing between aviation and telecommunications sectors and newly agreed measures to reduce the risk of disruption, but these issues are ongoing and will not be resolved overnight.
- DOT and FAA letter to AT&T and Verizon
- SAIB: AIR-21-18R1 - Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin on the Risk of Potential Adverse Effects on Radio Altimeters
- SAFO 21007 - Safety Alert for Operators on Risk of Potential Adverse Effects on Radio Altimeters when Operating in the Presence of 5G C-Band Interference
- AD 2021-23-12 - Airworthiness Directive on altimeter interference and airplanes
- AD 2021-23-13 - Airworthiness Directive on altimeter interference and helicopters
- FCC Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) 1-4, 6-10, 12-19, 21-41, and 43-50
- DOT Letter to NTIA re: FCC3.7 GHz Band Auction
FAA Statements on 5G
June 17, 2022
Key stakeholders in the aviation and wireless industries have identified a series of steps that will continue to protect commercial air travel from disruption by 5G C-band interference while also enabling Verizon and AT&T to enhance service around certain airports.
“We believe we have identified a path that will continue to enable aviation and 5G C-band wireless to safely co-exist,” said Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen. “We appreciate the willingness of Verizon and AT&T to continue this important and productive collaboration with the aviation industry.”
The phased approach requires operators of regional aircraft with radio altimeters most susceptible to interference to retrofit them with radio frequency filters by the end of 2022. This work has already begun and will continue on an expedited basis.
At the same time, the FAA worked with the wireless companies to identify airports around which their service can be enhanced with the least risk of disrupting flight schedules.
During initial negotiations in January, the wireless companies offered to keep mitigations in place until July 5, 2022, while they worked with the FAA to better understand the effects of 5G C-band signals on sensitive aviation instruments.
Based on progress achieved during a series of stakeholder roundtable meetings, the wireless companies offered Friday to continue with some level of voluntary mitigations for another year.
“We all agreed when we began these meetings that our goal was to make July 5, 2022, just another date on the calendar, and this plan makes that possible,” Nolen said.
Airlines and other operators of aircraft equipped with the affected radio altimeters must install filters or other enhancements as soon as possible.
Filters and replacement units for the mainline commercial fleet should be available on a schedule that would permit the work to be largely completed by July 2023. After that time, the wireless companies expect to operate their networks in urban areas with minimal restrictions.
The radio-altimeter manufacturers have worked at an unprecedented pace with Embraer, Boeing, Airbus and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to develop and test filters and installation kits for these aircraft. Customers are receiving the first kits now. In most cases, the kits can be installed in a few hours at airline maintenance facilities.
Throughout this process, the FAA will work with both industries to track the pace of the radio altimeter retrofits while also working with the wireless companies to relax mitigations around key airports in carefully considered phases.
The agency also will continue to engage with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Federal Communications Commission on technical issues associated with these efforts.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) revising the landing requirements for certain Boeing 737 series airplanes at airports where 5G interference could occur.
The AD does not apply to landings at airports where the FAA determined the aircraft radio altimeters are safe and reliable in the 5G C-band environment. It also does not apply to airports where 5G isn’t deployed.
The FAA issued the AD because many systems on Boeing 737 aircraft rely on the radio altimeter, including autothrottle, ground proximity warning, thrust reversers and Traffic Collision Avoidance System.
The AD affects approximately 2,442 airplanes in the United States and 8,342 worldwide and is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) revising the landing requirements for Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 airplanes from landing at airports where 5G interference could occur.
The AD does not apply to landings at airports where the FAA determined the aircraft radio altimeters are safe and reliable in the 5G C-band environment. It also does not apply to airports where 5G isn’t deployed.
The FAA issued the AD because many systems on the two aircraft models rely on the radio altimeter, including autothrottle, ground proximity warning, thrust reversers and Traffic Collision Avoidance System.
The AD affects approximately 1,138 airplanes in the United States and 1,984 worldwide and is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register.
Through continued technical collaboration, the FAA, Verizon, and AT&T have agreed on steps that will enable more aircraft to safely use key airports while also enabling more towers to deploy 5G service. The FAA appreciates the strong communication and collaborative approach with wireless companies, which have provided more precise data about the exact location of wireless transmitters and supported more thorough analysis of how 5G C-band signals interact with sensitive aircraft instruments. The FAA used this data to determine that it is possible to safely and more precisely map the size and shape of the areas around airports where 5G signals are mitigated, shrinking the areas where wireless operators are deferring their antenna activations. This will enable the wireless providers to safely turn on more towers as they deploy new 5G service in major markets across the United States. The FAA continues to work with helicopter operators and others in the aviation community to ensure they can safely operate in areas of current and planned 5G deployment.
January 27, 2022
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) revising the landing requirements for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes at airports where 5G interference could occur.
Continued collaboration between the FAA and wireless companies has enabled the agency to clear an estimated 90 percent of the U.S. commercial aircraft fleet, including the Boeing 737 MAX, for most low-visibility approaches in 5G deployment. This AD will not apply to landings at airports where the FAA determined the aircraft radio altimeters are safe and reliable in the 5G C-band environment. It also does not apply to airports where 5G isn’t deployed.
The FAA issued the AD because many systems on 737 MAX rely on the radio altimeter, including autothrottle, ground proximity warning, thrust reversers and Traffic Collision Avoidance System.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) prohibiting Boeing 747-8, 747-8F and 777 airplanes from landing at airports where 5G interference could occur.
The AD does not apply to landings at airports where the FAA determined the aircraft altimeters are safe and reliable in the 5G C-band environment. It also does not apply to airports where 5G isn’t deployed.
The FAA issued the AD because many systems on Boeing 747-8, 747-8F and 777 aircraft rely on the altimeter, including autothrottle, ground proximity warning, thrust reversers and Traffic Collision Avoidance System.
The AD affects approximately 336 airplanes in the United States and 1,714 worldwide.
Compliance time is within two days of the effective date of the AD.
January 20, 2022
The FAA issued new approvals Thursday that allow an estimated 78 percent of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at airports where wireless companies deployed 5G C-band. This now includes some regional jets.
Airplane models with one of the 13 cleared altimeters include all Boeing 717, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, 787, MD-10/-11; all Airbus A300, A310, A319, A320, A330, A340, A350 and A380 models; and some Embraer 170 and 190 regional jets.
The FAA is working diligently to determine which altimeters are reliable and accurate where 5G is deployed in the United States. We anticipate some altimeters will be too susceptible to 5G interference. To preserve safety, aircraft with those altimeters will be prohibited from performing low-visibility landings where 5G is deployed because the altimeter could provide inaccurate information.
Passengers should check with their airlines for latest flight schedules.
January 19, 2022
The FAA issued new approvals Wednesday that allow an estimated 62 percent of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at airports where wireless companies deployed 5G C-band.
The new safety buffer announced Tuesday around airports in the 5G deployment further expanded the number of airports available to planes with previously cleared altimeters to perform low-visibility landings. The FAA early Wednesday cleared another three altimeters.
Even with these approvals, flights at some airports may still be affected. The FAA also continues to work with manufacturers to understand how radar altimeter data is used in other flight control systems. Passengers should check with their airlines for latest flight schedules.
Airplane models with one of the five cleared altimeters include some Boeing 717, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, MD-10/-11 and Airbus A300, A310, A319, A320, A330, A340, A350 and A380 models.
"We recognize the economic importance of expanding 5G, and we appreciate the wireless companies working with us to protect the flying public and the country’s supply chain. The complex U.S. airspace leads the world in safety because of our high standards for aviation, and we will maintain this commitment as wireless companies deploy 5G." — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg
January 17, 2022
With safety as its core mission, the FAA will continue to ensure that the traveling public is safe as wireless companies deploy 5G. The FAA continues to work with the aviation industry and wireless companies to try to limit 5G-related flight delays and cancellations.
Today, the FAA cleared an estimated 45 percent of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at many of the airports where 5G C-band will be deployed on Jan. 19.
The agency approved two radio altimeter models that are installed in a wide variety of Boeing and Airbus planes. This combination of aircraft and altimeter approval opens up runways at as many as 48 of the 88 airports most directly affected by 5G C-band interference.
As of Jan. 5, none of the 88 airports would have been available for landing during low-visibility conditions. The wireless companies agreed to create buffer zones for six months around airports where transmitters are in close proximity. They also agreed to delay deployment until Jan. 19 while the FAA reviewed new data detailing the location and power of wireless transmitters in all 46 U.S. markets where this service will be deployed.
Even with these new approvals, flights at some airports may still be affected. The FAA also continues to work with manufacturers to understand how radar altimeter data is used in other flight control systems. Passengers should check with their airlines if weather is forecast at a destination where 5G interference is possible.
The airplane models approved include some Boeing 737, 747, 757, 767, MD-10/-11 and Airbus A310, A319, A320, A321, A330 and A350 models. FAA expects to issue more approvals in the coming days.
The Federal Aviation Administration will require operators of Boeing 787s to take additional precautions when landing on wet or snowy runways at airports where 5G C-band service is deployed.
During the two-week delay in deploying new 5G service, safety experts determined that 5G interference with the aircraft’s radio altimeter could prevent engine and braking systems from transitioning to landing mode, which could prevent an aircraft from stopping on the runway.
The Airworthiness Notification requires crews to be aware of this risk and to adopt specific safety procedures when landing on these runways.
The directive affects 137 aircraft in the United States and 1,010 worldwide.
The FAA is working to determine which radar altimeters will be reliable and accurate with 5G C-Band deployed in the United States. Since the agreement with the wireless companies was reached, the agency has made progress to safely reduce the risk of delays and cancellations as wireless companies share more data and manufacturer altimeter testing results arrive. The FAA expects to provide updates soon about the estimated percentage of commercial aircraft equipped with altimeters that can operate reliably and accurately in the 5G C-Band environment. Aircraft with untested altimeters or that need retrofitting or replacement will be unable to perform low-visibility landings where 5G is deployed, as outlined in Notices to Air Missions (NOTAMs) published at 0000 EST Thursday, January 13, 2022.
January 7, 2022
The Federal Aviation Administration released the list of 50 airports that will have buffer zones when wireless companies turn on new 5G C-band service on January 19. The agency sought input from the aviation community where the proposed buffer zones would help reduce the risk of disruption. Traffic volume, the number of low-visibility days and geographic location factored into the selection.
Many airports are not currently affected by the new 5G deployment, even though they are not on this list. These include airports not in the 46 markets where the new service will be deployed and airports that do not currently have the ability to allow low-visibility landings.
The wireless companies agreed to turn off transmitters and make other adjustments near these airports for six months to minimize potential 5G interference with sensitive aircraft instruments used in low-visibility landings.
The FAA continues to work with the aerospace manufacturers and wireless companies to make sure 5G is safely deployed and to limit the risk of flight disruptions at all airports.
Monday, January 3, 2022
Safety is the core of our mission and this guides all of our decisions. The FAA thanks AT&T and Verizon for agreeing to a voluntary delay and for their proposed mitigations. We look forward to using the additional time and space to reduce flight disruptions associated with this 5G deployment.
- The wireless companies have offered to implement a set of mitigations comparable to measures used in some European operating environments. While U.S. standards and operating environments are unique, we believe this could substantially reduce the disruptions to air operations.
- These additional mitigations will be in place for six months around 50 airports identified as those with the greatest impact to the U.S. aviation sector.
January 2, 2022
We are reviewing the latest letter from the wireless companies on how to mitigate interference from 5G C-band transmissions. U.S. aviation safety standards will guide our next actions.
Background on Timeline
5G and aviation have safely coexisted in other countries because power levels have been reduced around airports and the industries have worked together prior to deployment. For years, we have been working to find a solution in the United States:
- Since 2015, the FAA and the world aviation industry jointly raised concerns both industries would need to address to achieve similar results and had ongoing technical discussions. In the World Radio Conference proposal, the proposal only supported an international mobile telecommunications (IMT—i.e., 5G) allocation in the 3.4 to 3.7 GHz spectrum—not the 3.7 to 3.98 GHz spectrum that is the issue for radio altimeters.
- In 2018, Boeing raised concerns and proposed a solution. Additionally, ICAO, the aviation arm of the United Nations, identified that any use of the bands near 4.2 to 4.4 GHz should be contingent upon Radio Altimeter Studies.
- In 2018, the Air Line Pilots Association raised concerns to the FCC.
- In 2020 ahead of the auction for 5G C-Band, the FAA again raised concerns and asked for a postponement to collaborate on a solution. The NTIA, the federal government coordinator on spectrum disputes, failed to put the 2020 letter into the FCC's docket.
- Throughout 2021, the aviation industry continued to ask for additional collaboration and time in anticipation of the complications we now face. The industry also held several meetings throughout the year to find solutions, including in June and October.
December 23, 2021
The FAA is working with the aviation and wireless industries to find a solution that allows 5G C-band and aviation to safely coexist. While that work is underway, the FAA alerted operators that Notices to Air Missions (NOTAMs) may be issued to restrict operations in areas where 5G interference is possible. It also provides additional information about aircraft systems that could be affected.
December 7, 2021
The FAA believes the expansion of 5G and aviation will safely co-exist. Today, we took an important step toward that goal by issuing two airworthiness directives to provide a framework and to gather more information to avoid potential effects on aviation safety equipment. The FAA is working closely with the Federal Communications Commission and wireless companies, and has made progress toward safely implementing the 5G expansion. We are confident with ongoing collaboration we will reach this shared goal.