FAA chief to testify at US House hearing on 5G’s impact on aviation safety

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FILE PHOTO: Words 5G and a toy airplane are placed on a printed American flag in this illustration taken January 18, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

WASHINGTON — The head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is scheduled to testify before a U.S. House of Representatives hearing Feb. 3 on the new 5G C-band rollout and its impact on aviation safety, sources said. to Reuters on Wednesday.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is expected to hear from FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, as well as aviation and wireless industry officials. These include the head of Airlines for America, a trade group representing passenger and cargo airlines, and the Aerospace Industries Association, which represents aircraft manufacturers.

“I hope that Administrator Dickson and all of our witnesses are preparing for an in-depth discussion of how the goal of a successful 5G deployment can co-exist with the security of our skies,” the committee chair said. , Peter DeFazio, in a statement to Reuters.

AT&T and Verizon Communications agreed on Jan. 18 to delay commissioning new telecommunications towers near major airports even as they turn on new 5G C-Band service.

Radio altimeters are used to give height above ground data for inclement weather landings and 5G technology could cause interference, the FAA warned.

Last week, major U.S. passenger and cargo carriers warned of a potential “catastrophic” aviation crisis and said that without a delay in the rollout of 5G near certain airports “the vast majority of travelers and shippers will basically be grounded.”

The FAA, which has not commented on Dickson’s expected testimony, said Tuesday it had issued approvals for supplemental altimeters that allow about 90% of the U.S. commercial aviation fleet to make landings by low visibility in airports where 5G wireless is deployed.

The FAA authorized seven additional altimeters, bringing the approved total to 20.

Verizon has agreed not to temporarily turn on about 500 towers near airports, sources told Reuters, less than 10% of their planned deployment, while carriers and the administration work on a permanent solution.

The problem is disrupting some bad weather landings at smaller airports, especially among regional jets, and there are still serious concerns about what happens when wireless operators turn on these towers near airports.

“We are now seeing the operational impacts on air travel,” DeFazio said. “All interested parties must come together to address these impacts and implement long-term solutions that will increase safety and reduce disruption to affected airports.”

Aircraft models with altimeters allowed include the Boeing 717, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, 787 MD-10/-11; Airbus A300, A310, A319, A220, A320, A321, A330, A340, A350, A380; Embraer 120, 170 and 190 regional jets; All CL-600/CRJ regional jets; DHC-8 and ATR turboprops.

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