FAA Administrator to Testify at 5G Hearing

Stephen Dickson will appear before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on February 3.

FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson, seen here speaking at the 2021 NBAA-BACE event. [File Photo Courtesy: NBAA]

The U.S. House of Representatives will hear from Federal Aviation Administrator Stephen Dickson next week about the impact of 5G deployment on aviation safety. Dickson will testify before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on February 3.

Last week, 5G broadcast began by AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ). 

Aviation officials warn that 5G signals disrupt radio altimeters aboard aircraft, constituting a safety hazard in low visibility situations. The data supplied by radio altimeters gives the pilot information about the aircraft height above terrain, and supplies information for several other systems aboard sophisticated aircraft used by airlines.

When this data is suspect, the aircraft cannot land.

According to Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, airline travel has already been adversely impacted by 5G as thick fog has blanketed the West Coast for the better part of a week. “We are now seeing the operational impacts to airline travel,” DeFazio told Reuters. “All interested parties must come together to address these impacts and implement long-term solutions that will increase safety and reduce disruptions for affected airports.”

Since 2016, wireless carriers AT&T and Verizon have been developing 5G. The purpose is to improve the speed of wireless communications. The discussions between the wireless companies and the aviation industry stepped up in December as the launch date of January 2022 approached. Among the compromises were limiting the power of the wireless transmissions and the creation of transmission-free buffer zones around busier airports.

The FAA has been working with airlines and aircraft manufacturers to address safety concerns.

Officials from AT&T and Verizon are expected to testify at the hearing, as is the head of Airlines for America, an industry trade group representing airlines and aircraft manufacturers.

The wireless companies argued that 5G is already safely in use in Europe and American air carriers fly there every day.

The issue is so big the FAA has created an informational page to answer commonly asked questions.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.
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