The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is confident that aviation safety concerns about 5G C-Band deployment will be addressed “safely with minimal disruptions,” the head of the FAA will tell U.S. lawmakers on Thursday, according to testimony seen by Reuters.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson will tell a House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee that in the coming weeks FAA will use testing data to “safely enable additional 5G deployment.”
The aviation industry and FAA has warned 5G interference can impact sensitive airplane electronics like radio altimeters.
Dickson, a pilot, noted 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 says. “There is no scenario under which harmful interference is acceptable from a safety standpoint.”
On Jan. 17, airlines chief executives warned of an impending “catastrophic” aviation crisis that could ground almost all traffic because of the 5G deployment.
Hours before the planned Jan. 19 deployment, Verizon and AT&T agreed to delay deploying about 510 5G wireless towers near airports.
The delay did not prevent dozens of countries from canceling flights to the United States, and it cast the U.S. regulatory system in an ugly light.
“Although some flights have been affected by safety mitigations required in 5G deployment areas, significant disruptions to the air transportation system have been avoided,” Dickson’s testimony says.
House Transportation and Infrastructure committee chairman Peter DeFazio in a written statement released ahead of the hearing said that the recent events show “the current interagency process for auctioning off spectrum is completely
DeFazio said key questions remain, including how long will the wireless carriers keep the towners turned off near airports.
Nick Calio, who heads Airlines for America, says in written testimony 5G issues facing the aviation industry should have been avoided and it will likely 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,” Dickson’s testimony said.
Reuters reported Tuesday Verizon has won approval to turn on about 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.
Federal Communications Commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel was invited but unable to testify. She spoke to DeFazio and subcommittee chair Rick Larsen on Wednesday about the issue, her office said.