FAA ponders 'next actions' as 5G launch looms
January 04, 2022
The US Federal Aviation Administration has disclosed that it will rely on US aviation safety standards to guide its "next actions" while reviewing a 2 January letter from the chief executives of wireless providers AT&T and Verizon in which they apparently refuse the FAA's request to delay the planned 5 January activation of 5G telecommunication networks in the USA.
The FAA and the US Transportation department have expressed concerns that 5G implementation could interfere with radio altimeters on board aircraft. In a joint letter sent on 31 December to AT&T chief executive John Stankey and Verizon chief Hans Vestberg, FAA administrator Steve Dickson and US Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg initially thank them for a previously granted 30-day delay in the activation of 5G C-band service. Six paragraphs later, Dickson and Buttigieg, citing potential disruptions "the traveling public would face from commercial launch of C-band service", ask for a further delay of "no more than two weeks" beyond the scheduled 5 January deployment date. Dickson and Buttigieg in their letter state that the FAA would use the additional delay in January to ensure that "5G deployment and aviation operations can co-exist". The AT&T and Verizon chiefs are unmoved in their 2 January response to Dickson and Buttigieg: "Now, on the evening of New Year’s Eve, just five days before the C-band spectrum will be deployed, we received your letter asking us to take still more voluntary steps – to the detriment of our millions of consumer, business and government customers – to once again assist the aviation industry and the FAA after failing to resolve issues in that costly 30-day delay period, which we never considered to be an initial one." Sidestepping the request for a further delay in 5G implementation, Stankey and Vestberg instead offer to adopt for six months C-band "radio exclusion zones" similar to those being used in France. "That approach – which is one of the most conservative in the world – would include extensive exclusion zones around the runways at certain airports." The FAA notes in its 2 January statement about Stankey and Vestberg's letter that the aviation industry has throughout 2021 "continued to ask for additional collaboration and time in anticipation of the complications we now face".

​TUI Group takes delivery of one 737-8 Max from ACG
January 03, 2022
Aviation Capital Group has delivered one new Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft on long-term lease to Germany’s TUI Group. The aircraft is part of a multi-aircraft transaction between ACG and the airline group, the lessor says in a 30 December statement. The aircraft is powered by CFM International’s Leap-1B engines.

​JetBlue axes 1,300 flights amid Omicron surge
January 02, 2022
JetBlue Airways has cancelled close to 1,300 flights through to mid-January in response to a "surge" in the number of employees calling in sick with the Omicron variant of Covid-19. The US-based carrier says it expects Covid-19 cases in the northeast of the country – where most of its crewmembers are based – to continue rising for the next couple of weeks. It has therefore "proactively removed" 1,280 flights from its schedule between 30 December and 13 January. "Like many businesses and organisations, we have seen a surge in the number of sick calls from Omicron," says JetBlue. "To give our customers as much notice as possible to make alternate plans and re-accommodate them on other flights, we are proactively reducing our schedule through January 13." Other US carriers have also been cancelling flights because of Omicron-related staffing issues. Delta Air Lines says it expects to cancel between 200 and 300 flights a day this weekend, "as teams across our system continue to do all possible to mitigate constraints from increasing winter weather and the Omicron variant". The Atlanta-based airline cancelled about 250 of its 4,179 scheduled flights on 30 December. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on 27 December updated its guidance on self-isolation for people who have tested positive for, or been exposed to, Covid-19. The required self-isolation period for those who have tested positive for the virus has now been halved to five days, "if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving", says the CDC. People who have been exposed to the virus are advised to self-isolate for five days if they are unvaccinated, or it has been more than six months since their second Covid-19 vaccination. Those who have received a booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure. Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastion had written to CDC director Rochelle Walensky earlier this month, urging public health officials to halve the self-isolation period for fully-vaccinated individuals with breakthrough Covid-19 infections. JetBlue has welcomed the changed guidance, but still expects Omicron-related disruption in the first half of January. "While the new CDC guidelines should help get crewmembers back to work sooner, and our schedule reduction and other efforts will further ease day-of cancellations, we expect the number of Covid cases in the northeast – where most of our crewmembers are based – to continue to surge for the next week or two," says the carrier. "This means there is a high likelihood of additional cancellations until case counts start to come down."


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