New York Airports Are Under 5G-Linked Storm Warnings Issued by FAA

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(Bloomberg) -- Airports across the East Coast, including those around New York City, are under an advisory warning that poor weather combined with new 5G airwaves could lead to flight diversions.

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The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Thursday morning posted the list of airports -- which also include several in the West -- on its air-traffic advisories website. A storm bringing rain and snow extends across much of the East Coast.

At the same time it warned of possible disruptions, the FAA acted to minimize impacts by expanding the number of aircraft models that it has approved to fly within 5G zones near airports. About 78% of the U.S. fleet is now approved to make low-visibility landings in those conditions, the agency said in a press release.

The weather systems are the first major test of how the air-traffic system will perform after 5G went live Wednesday. So far, disruptions to the aviation system have been minimal as a last-minute accord between wireless telephone companies and the FAA on 5G averted major disruptions.

But the longer-term impacts remain unclear. Wireless companies want to expand 5G service around airports in coming months and have also said they will increase the power of signals after six months.

The FAA warning Thursday was attributed to the 5G expansion and potential for radar altimeter interference, according to the website. Certain low-visibility landings can’t be performed in the presence of 5G signals on aircraft at risk of interference.

The airports listed included New York’s LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy; Newark Liberty and Teterboro in New Jersey; Boston; Hartford, Connecticut; Providence, Rhode Island; Philadelphia; Baltimore/Washington; San Francisco and Oakland, California; and Salt Lake City.

“There are modest impacts happening right now when the weather is bad,” United Airlines Holdings Inc. Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power With David Westin.”

Only a “relatively small number of airplanes” are affected as a result of an agreement earlier this week to temporarily expand 5G buffer zones around airports, Kirby said.

The FAA on Thursday added the first regional jet models to the list of planes that it deems at least partially protected against 5G signals. Some Embraer SA EMB 170 and EMB 190 aircraft were added to the list.

The agency also concluded the Boeing Co. 787 was shielded from 5G signals, meaning the vast majority of larger planes built by Boeing and Airbus SE are now covered.

But the agency warned that disruptions are still possible for some airlines.

“We anticipate some altimeters will be too susceptible to 5G interference,” the FAA said. “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.”

An agreement by AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. on Tuesday that created wider 5G buffer zones around U.S. airports has also lessened flight restrictions, the FAA said.

The faster wireless service began in dozens of communities across the country on Wednesday.

(Updates with FAA aircraft exemptions, United executive comments from third paragraph)

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