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Business and Economy

Portland Jetport says 5G rollout hasn't affected flights — yet

5G Airlines
J. Scott Applewhite
Passenger flights land and take off at Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, Wed., Jan. 19, 2022. The airline industry is raising the stakes in a showdown with AT&T and Verizon over plans to launch new 5G wireless service this week, warning that thousands of flights could be grounded or delayed if the rollout takes place near major airports.

The rollout of 5-G cellular phone service is, so far, having no effect on commercial flights into and out of Portland Jetport.

Airport manager Paul Bradbury says 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 says it's a particular cause for concern for some smaller, regional jets, similar to ones that provide service to Portland.

Bradley says the FAA has been creating alternate safety procedures for aircraft, and 90% of them are now cleared to operate where 5G transmissions are taking place.

But, he says, "We really need a permanent fix, [with] guidance and rules in place that make it safe for all aircraft on a permanent basis."