5G issue that's concerning many in aviation won't affect Grand Forks-to-Minneapolis flights

More than 80 airports could be impacted unless buffer zones are installed around them.

Grand Forks International Airport 2021.jpg
Grand Forks International Airport, as seen in 2021. (Grand Forks Herald photo)
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GRAND FORKS — An issue that airline administrators nationwide believe could wreak havoc on U.S. aviation schedules isn’t likely to be a problem for travelers flying between Grand Forks and Minneapolis.

Monday, Jan. 17, executives from major carriers said the nation could see a “catastrophic” disruption after two communications companies begin their new 5G service. The deployment of the service — which is the latest in cellular technology — is expected to come Wednesday.

The issue, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, is that the 5G service could adversely affect airplane instruments, and specifically during times of low visibility. According to a report from the Reuters news agency, airlines on Monday already were considering whether to cancel some international flights due into the U.S. on Wednesday.

More than 80 airports could be impacted unless buffer zones are installed around them. However, some 50 airports across the nation have buffer zones, including the airport at Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Most flights in and out of Grand Forks connect directly to MSP and there probably will be no impact for travelers heading from here to the Twin Cities and back, according to Grand Forks International Airport Executive Director Ryan Riesinger. And, he said, “we’re not going to have 5G in our area for some time.”


“The challenge would be that our passengers can fly all throughout the country and the world (after arriving in the Twin Cities) so that’s not to say they may not have some impact at another airport,” he said. “That’s still to be seen, how it’s all going to play out.”

Riesinger said Tuesday he’s not yet sure of the impact that could come for travelers to places like Mesa, Arizona, or Orlando, Florida — two warm-climate cities that have flights to and from Grand Forks. He said he’s not sure if 5G is being deployed near those airports, and he noted that Mesa — due to its dry, desert location – rarely has conditions that limit visibility.

According to Reuters, the CEOs of some major airlines on Sunday visited with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. Late Monday, United Airlines warned that the issue could affect more than 15,000 of its flights, Reuters reported. The airlines ask that 5G be “everywhere in the country except within the approximate 2 miles of airport runways” at key airports.

Also from Reuters: “The FAA said on Sunday it had cleared an estimated 45% of the U.S. commercial airplane fleet to perform low-visibility landings at many airports where 5G C-band will be deployed and they expect to issue more approvals before Wednesday. The airlines noted on Monday that the list did not include many large airports.”

Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business Magazine since 2014.

He is a member of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. board of directors and, in the past, has served on boards for Junior Achievement, the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, United Way, Empire Arts Center, Cornerstones Career Learning Center and Crimestoppers.

As publisher, Wenzel oversees news, advertising and business operations at the Herald, as well as the newspaper's opinion content.

Wenzel can be reached at 701-780-1103, or via Twitter via @korriewenzel.
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