Stephen Dickson, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), appeared before a House Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., to explain how and why the agency appeared to have failed to adequately prepare for the rollout of 5G C-band frequencies near US airports as recently as last year.
The head of the FAA has stated that safety is his number one priority.
As the 5G rollout was on the verge of becoming a major disaster, telcos Verizon and AT&T agreed at the last minute to postpone it until mid-January. The decision came after airlines warned of massive delays, disruptions, and cancellations as a result of the potential safety risk that the 5G rollout posed to aircraft.
Following the mid-January postponement, Verizon issued a short statement in which it accused the FAA of failing to use the two years they had to plan for the rollout in a responsible manner.
This debate is centered on the proposed usage of C-band 5G frequencies near airports, which has sparked widespread outrage. It is possible that those frequencies are similar to the ones that aircraft use for navigation into airports during severe weather and other limited visibility conditions.
As long as the C-band frequencies are used throughout cellular networks, the aviation industry is concerned that they would interfere with an aircraft’s instrument landing systems.
The Federal Aviation Administration has overturned a prohibition on most commercial jets landing at major US airports during low visibility times, which was prompted by 5G technology.
Speaking before the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Thursday, Mr. Dickson stated that the safety of the United States’ airspace is his top responsibility, and that 5G has been a novel challenge for the aviation industry.
According to him, “before to and during the 2020 spectrum auction, the FAA has been engaged in a sustained effort to examine and manage the risks associated with possibly impaired radio altimeter function.”
“Even with a frequency gap of 220 MHz between 5G operations and other operations, there may still be the possibility of hazardous interference under certain conditions.
“Pilots employ radio altimeters during low-visibility landings because they are the only sensors available on civil aircraft that can provide a direct measurement of the distance between the aircraft and the ground or other impediments.
“In the event of harmful intervention impacting any of these systems, the results might be devastating. Unless there are appropriate mitigations in place to address the detrimental interference, there is no situation in which it is acceptable from a safety standpoint to allow it to continue.”
The dispute is centered on fears that 5G frequencies will interfere with frequencies used by aircraft during landing, which is a legitimate concern.
The FAA’s lack of preparedness has proven to be a problem.
Nonetheless, when the deadline for telecommunications companies to activate contested frequencies near airport terminals approached, it became clear that the FAA was not ready.
As airlines and industry organizations such as Airlines for America expressed their concerns, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued airworthiness directions that prohibited airlines from utilizing Autoland systems at 100 airports around the United States.
Chaos seems to be on its way. However, as the White House intervened at the eleventh hour, Verizon and AT&T voluntarily postponed the January 19 launch date until later. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received harsh criticism for its lack of preparedness – particularly considering the extensive lead-in notice.
Mr Dickson claims that since issuing those airworthiness guidelines in January, Alternate Methods of Compliance (AMOC) have been implemented for about 90 percent of the commercial fleet in the United States.
“Since the 19th of January, 2022, wireless firms have added additional 5G C-band towers in 46 markets across the United States. Prior to and following the deployment of 5G, the Federal Aviation Administration has worked around the clock to enable the implementation of mitigations, if needed, to address risks and hazards “The head of the Federal Aviation Administration informed the panel.
“We are confident that we will be able to resolve this issue safely and with the least amount of disruption, but we acknowledge that some altimeters—particularly 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 that they may therefore need to be replaced.
It was not possible for Jessica Rosen worcel, the Chair of the Federal Communications Commission, to testify before the panel because she was the head of the agency responsible for the 5G deployment.
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