The rollout of 5G cellular phone service is, so far, having no effect on commercial flights into and out of Portland International Jetport.
Airport manager Paul Bradbury said that’s because the newer 5G transmission equipment hasn’t been installed nearby yet, and isn’t due to be installed until 2023.
The higher-speed cell service operates in what’s called the C-band, a frequency not far from the one used by many aircraft altimeters. Airlines have expressed concern that the 5G transmissions could cause those altimeters to give inaccurate readings. It’s not a big problem when pilots can see the ground, but it’s a different story in bad weather, when pilots rely on instruments to tell them how high they are.
The Federal Aviation Administration has said it’s a particular cause for concern for smaller, regional jets, similar to ones that provide service to Portland.
Bradley said the agency has been creating alternate safety procedures for aircraft, and 90 percent of them are now cleared to operate where 5G transmissions are taking place.
But, he said, “We really need a permanent fix, [with] guidance and rules in place that make it safe for all aircraft on a permanent basis.”
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.