Aviation Coalition Asks FAA for More Time on 5G Retrofits

 - November 15, 2022, 1:03 PM
An aviation coalition is seeking more time to retrofit aircraft with radar altimeters resistant to 5G C-band interference. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons by arbyreed)

A broad aviation industry OEM and association coalition is asking the U.S. government for more time to implement radar altimeter retrofits required to defeat potential 5G C-band cellular interference. In a joint letter sent this morning to top federal officials—including the heads of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FAA—the coalition said the deadlines to retrofit the nation’s entire fleet of regional and cargo aircraft with upgraded radar altimeters (RAs) by December 2022 and the overall deadline of July 2023 was not achievable and requested that signal interference mitigations be extended through the end of 2023.  

“Unfortunately, due to global supply-chain issues, lack of a certified solution for one key RA, and the FAA only recently identifying the criteria for RAs that would not need to be changed, RA manufacturers and air carriers will likely be unable to fully meet either the December 2022 deadlines for smaller regional aircraft and many large transports nor the July 2023 retrofit deadline, though we continue to do everything within our power to do so. Further, all this investment will be wasted if a long-term mitigation plan is not put in place and codified in regulation, as additional wireless providers that have not been part of these interim voluntary efforts begin to provide services,” the coalition noted. 

It added that the threat from 5G interference was real and documented. “Since January 2022, the FAA has documented over 100 incidents of potential 5G interference, the majority of which were found to have a direct RA impact, resulting in safety alerts by systems such as the Terrain Avoidance Warning System.”

While the two largest 5G C-band providers, AT&T and Verizon, have voluntarily agreed to continue interference mitigations around airports through July 2023, the coalition noted that the federal government needs to codify such mitigations to provide clarity and ensure public safety. The coalition charged that this has yet to occur due to a continued lack of agency cooperation and coordination between the FAA, FCC, and National Telecommunications and Information Administration. “Inter-agency government progress appears to be at a stalemate, while stakeholders are doing their part to address these issues,” the coalition said. 

It noted that failure to extend mitigations and give the industry more time to retrofit interference-resistant RAs could cause air traffic disruptions and delays. “Ultimately, passengers and shippers will be the ones who will bear the brunt of any operational disruption caused if this issue is not resolved.”

Coalition members include NBAA, HAI, AOPA, EAA, GAMA, IATA, RTCA, Regional Airline Association, Cargo Airline Association, Boeing, Embraer, Garmin, Collins, and Thales.