Proposed US requirements to retrofit airplane altimeters to ensure they are not susceptible to 5G wireless interference may cost the industry at least $637 million, the world's biggest airline trade body said on Thursday 16 February.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents more than 100 carriers that fly to the United States, said in comments filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the costs would be far higher than the $26 million estimated by the agency.
The group warned last week many airlines are at risk of not meeting the deadlines. It said on Thursday 16 February: "One can expect flight disruptions post the March and July deadlines unless the FAA and the U.S. government take a different approach to this interference issue."
The FAA proposed in January requiring passenger and cargo aircraft in the United States have 5G C-Band-tolerant radio altimeters or approved filters by early 2024. The agency said on Thursday it will evaluate all comments.
Concerns that 5G service could interfere with airplane altimeters, which give data on a plane's height above the ground and are crucial for bad-weather landing, led to disruptions at some US airports last year involving international carriers.
Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc in June voluntarily agreed to delay some C-Band 5G use until July 2023 as air carriers work to retrofit airplanes to ensure they will not face interference.
IATA said the costs are higher per plane than FAA estimated and said it should include the costs of 6,000 planes already retrofitted and non-U.S. registered planes that will be impacted.
"Operators around the world are being compelled to invest millions of dollars to retrofit their US-bound fleet while being reliant on the goodwill of companies that refused to accept that 5G C-band interference even existed in the first place," IATA said.
"The aviation industry, rather than the (Federal Communications Commission) or the telecommunications companies, is being told to pay to upgrade its certified radio altimeters. The unfairness of this cannot be overstated."
Wireless carries spent more than $80 billion on the C-Band 5G spectrum, including $52.9 billion by Verizon in auction and clearing costs. The FCC, AT&T and Verizon did not immediately comment.
On 2 February, IATA said many airlines will not meet retrofit deadlines, citing "supply chain issues, certification delays, and unavoidable logistical challenges."
US Airlines Urge FAA To Extend 5G Upgrade Deadline
The above news was followed by news that a group representing major US airlines "strongly urged" the Federal Aviation Administration to extend a proposed deadline to June 2024 to retrofit airplane altimeters to ensure they are not susceptible to 5G wireless interference.
Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and others also asked the FAA to revise a proposed 5G safety directive "to reflect technical realities and the continued safe operation of many aircraft." The group warned a "material number of aircraft" in US fleets will not be modified by July and without changes it could "severely limit operations."