Explainer: Will 5G cell service interfere with flights from Harrisburg International Airport?

Allie Balcomb, Social Media and Brand Manager

Harrisburg was one of 50 airports in the U.S., and one of three in Pennsylvania, listed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) where new 5G service has airlines working towards new procedures about resolving interference with cockpit equipment for pilots.

Generally, cell phone towers that serve airports are important because frequent travelers are customers for those mobile phone companies. Nearly 40 countries have safely deployed 5G technology without disrupting aviation services,” read part of a statement by AT&T. But the FAA has so far failed to.

Altimeters used by aircraft measure altitude and are the equipment airlines worry could be affected by 5G signals, according to abc27. An analysis by abc27 News of Cirium Airline schedule data found the approvals for landings based off of specific altimeter data could benefit Harrisburg less than the other two Pennsylvania airports on the FAA’s list

Based on the analysis, 53 percent of aircraft that land at Philadelphia are among the types covered by the FAA’s approval for landing with low visibility near 5G towers. The figure at Pittsburgh is 43 percent and at Harrisburg just 15 percent.

​​The FAA approved specific aircraft to land despite low visibility and 5G at specific airports, so those figures likely aren’t in precise proportion to the percentage of landings at each airport that would be unaffected by the issue

The question isn’t whether airplanes can fly safely but how much hassle could be required to achieve safety while the issue is resolved.