By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — The new year could bring new problems for airlines and airports. That’s because the FAA is concerned about new 5G cell towers interfering with planes’ automated landing systems.

CBS News reports that a standoff between two federal agencies could have flight-halting consequences caught in the middle. Starting Jan. 5, 2022, US airlines may have to stop using equipment that helps pilots land in bad weather or low visibility at more than 40 of the nation’s busiest airports following an FAA order prompted by concerns about possible interference from newly activated 5G cellphone towers.

That could impact flights at Logan Airport.

“5G is now the biggest issue facing the airline industry, it’s remarkable to say in a world where we’re still in COVID,” according to United CEO Scott Kirby, who says airlines have no choice but to adhere to the FAA order. “If we go back to decades-old procedures and technology for flying airplanes, cancel thousands of flights per day and hundreds of thousands of customers, it will be a catastrophic failure of government.”

The wireless industry insists there is not a safety issue, arguing “the aviation’s industry’s fear-mongering relies on completely discredited information and deliberate distortions of fact.”

AT&T and Verizon are pledging to reduce signal strength on cell towers near airports.

“We have 39 countries where you have this deployment. There have been no issues,” said Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who believes expanded 5G service is essential. “What we are looking at is a late-on-to-the-table objection by the FAA.”

The FCC says it is optimistic that a solution can be worked out. The wireless industry has spent about $80 billion buying the bandwidth for 5G and opposes any further delays.

But the airlines say without a solution, those flights will have to be delayed and canceled. It could impact an estimated 32 million fliers over the next year.

On Wednesday, the wireless industry, the Aerospace Industries Association and Airlines For America released a statement indicating progress on the issue.

“We are pleased that after productive discussions we will be working together to share the available data from all parties to identify the specific areas of concern for aviation. The best technical experts from across both industries will be working collectively to identify a path forward, in coordination with the FAA and FCC,” they said.  “Our belief is that by working collaboratively in good faith on a data-driven solution, we can achieve our shared goal of deploying 5G while preserving aviation safety.”

CBSBoston.com Staff