On Thursday, Steve Dickson, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said, he is confident that aviation safety concerns surrounding 5G C-Band deployment will be addressed “safely with minimal disruptions”.
Dickson is slated to tell a House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee that in the coming weeks the FAA will use testing data to “safely enable additional 5G deployment.”
The FAA and the aviation industry has warned 5G interferences can impact sensitive airplane electronics such as radio altimeters.
Dickson, who himself is a pilot, noted that radio altimeters are one of the most crucial pieces of safety equipment aboard an aircraft and are used in low visibility landings.
“Harmful interference affecting any of these systems has the potential to be catastrophic,” Dickson’s testimony will say. “There is no scenario under which harmful interference is acceptable from a safety standpoint.”
On January 17, 2022, the CEOs of many airlines had warned of an impending “catastrophic” aviation crisis that could ground almost all traffic because of 5G deployment.
On January 19, Verizon and AT&T had agreed to delay deploying around 510 5G wireless towers near airports.
“Although some flights have been affected by safety mitigations required in 5G deployment areas, significant disruptions to the air transportation system have been avoided,” says Dickson’s testimony.
Ahead of the hearing, House Transportation and Infrastructure committee chairman Peter DeFazio released a written statement which states, the recent events show “the current interagency process for auctioning off spectrum is completely broken.”
He went on to add, the key questions that remain, includes how long will the wireless carriers keep the towners turned off near airports.
In a written testimony, Nick Calio, who heads Airlines for America, said issues facing the aviation industry revolving around 5G should have been avoided and that it is very likely that it will take “years” to permanently address interference issues.
The FAA has cleared 20 altimeter models and approved 90% of the U.S. commercial fleet for landing in low-visibility approaches in areas with C-Band 5G.
“We acknowledge that some altimeters — especially older models used by certain segments of the aviation industry — may not receive approval as being safe in the presence of 5G emissions and interference, and may need to be replaced,” states Dickson’s testimony.
As of now, Verizon has won approval to turn on nearly 14% of the 500 towers it agreed not to deploy near airports.
The FAA plans subsequent refinements of the airport buffer zones that will allow further towers to be activated.