National Business Aviation Association
BAN's World GazetteerDistrict of Columbia
In a statement submitted to a hearing of the Aviation Subcommittee of the US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the NBAA reaffirmed the critical need for greater collaboration between government agencies to properly address aviation safety concerns stemming from the rollout of new 5G wireless telecommunications networks.
Last month, Verizon and AT&T deployed new, nationwide 5G networks operating between 3.7-3.98 gigahertz, adjacent to C-band frequency spectrum utilised by radar altimeters that measure an aircraft's real-time height over terrain and obstacles. Interference concerns led the FAA to restrict certain aircraft operations dependent on radar altimeter data in 5G environments.
The NBAA statement reads: “With the significant benefits that 5G technology will provide for connectivity across the nation, NBAA believes these networks must safely co-exist with aviation." The February 3 hearing, 'Finding the Right Frequency: 5G Deployment & Aviation Safety', included FAA administrator Steve Dickson, representatives from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other government, aviation industry and telecommunications stakeholders.
“The aviation industry has been open to working with the FCC, FAA and other agencies to advance the discussion on these issues,” NBAA continues. “Unfortunately, since the December 2020 auction of the 5G-C spectrum [to AT&T and Verizon], the required levels of coordination did not occur.”
The result was two FAA airworthiness directives (ADs) and more than 1,500 notices to air missions (NOTAMs) restricting low-visibility operations by fixed wing aircraft and helicopters and affecting a host of other aircraft systems tied to radar altimeter functionality. While NBAA commended the FAA's efforts, the association emphasised that those actions came from 'a reactive position because the necessary proactive coordination had not occurred'.
NBAA further lauded the FAA's diligence in issuing alternative methods of compliance (AMOCs) for aircraft to safely operate in 5G environments, although the agency's focus on commercial airliners has delayed similar AMOCs for general aviation and business aircraft. Currently, the FAA must also reissue all 5G AMOCs every 30 days, compounding delays in issuing new AMOCs.
The NBAA summarised that the resulting situation highlights the need for greater interagency collaboration not only today, but even more so in the future, as emerging aviation technologies, including advanced air mobility aircraft with autonomous capabilities, create new wireless spectrum challenges.
“By working collaboratively with the FCC, telecom providers and other stakeholders, the FAA could have better visibility into future 5G impacts,” NBAA states. “The general aviation community looks forward to working with the FAA on an improved process so we can continue accessing airports across the nation and performing our critical missions.”