Key Points:

  • Delta Air Lines has updated the radio altimeters in its operational fleet to prevent potential 5G C-Band interference.

  • Delta successfully mitigated operational impact by completing the work between July 1 and this week, with a few planes remaining that are currently out for maintenance.

  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had warned in June about operational constraints that airlines could face if they didn't meet the July 1 deadline for these updates.

Delta Closes Gap on 5G-Compliant Aircraft Fleet

ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines announced that it has finished updating radio altimeters in its actively flying fleet to prevent interference from 5G C-Band frequencies. The move comes after Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg cautioned airlines in June about possible operational issues during inclement weather if planes were not retrofitted by July 1. Delta has confirmed that all its aircraft currently in service have been updated and those that are out for scheduled maintenance will receive 5G-compliant altimeters upon their return to operation.

The airline disclosed that, as of the July 1 deadline, nearly 190 of its aircraft, including the entire Airbus A220 fleet, were yet to be outfitted with the updated equipment. However, Delta has now reported that the work was completed without any significant operational disruptions between the start of July and this week.

Last year, concerns about 5G interfering with airplane altimeters, which provide critical data on a plane's altitude above ground level, led to some flight cancellations and minor disruptions at U.S. airports. This occurred as international airlines halted some of their flights due to these safety concerns.

In response to the aviation industry's worries, telecom giants Verizon and AT&T voluntarily postponed some C-Band 5G operations until July of last year. This gave airlines, including Delta, time to modify their radio altimeters to be compatible with the new 5G services.