Release #: 21.37
June 22, 2021

RETAIN Act Will Help Protect Against Economic Impact Caused by GPS Interference

New Bill to Protect Private Sector from Costs Associated with Ligado’s Expansion of 5G Network

MCLEAN, Va.—The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) applauded Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Mike Rounds (R-SD) today for introducing the Recognizing and Ensuring Taxpayer Access to Infrastructure Necessary for GPS and Satellite Communications Act of 2021, or the RETAIN Act. The proposed bipartisan legislation will ensure that those negatively impacted, both in the public and private sector, can recover costs accrued from GPS and satellite communication interference caused by Ligado Networks’ operations.

In April 2020, as the world was focused on how to best navigate through the COVID-19 public health crisis, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took the opportunity to grant Ligado access to the public airwaves adjacent to bands traditionally reserved for satellite navigation and communication services. The decision, made without public or stakeholder input, also failed to properly consider aviation safety standards when they granted access to the sensitive spectrum that has typically been reserved for civilian and Department of Defense GPS.

“On every flight, airline pilots rely on GPS and satellite communications to make sure that our skies remain the safest in the world, which is why any potential threat to these systems is simply unacceptable,” said Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA president. “ALPA is grateful for Sen. Inhofe’s leadership to ensure that the private sector is economically protected from the harm to GPS and satellite communications that will arise from the FCC’s irrational decision.”

For years, ALPA has raised aviation safety concerns, including a petition directly to the FCC to reconsider the approval to use the spectrum because it threatens the reliability and usability of GPS, which has become essential in helping to reduce approach and landing accidents, controlled flight into terrain, and runway incursions. Additionally, GPS has become critical for the safe operation of drones and other users which safely share the national airspace system.

“ALPA remains seriously concerned that the commission did not fully consider the safety performance levels required to ensure safe operation of GPS aviation communication, navigation, and surveillance services, or the threat of adverse operational impacts from Ligado’s proposed service. The tests and evidence relied upon by the commission were inadequate to rule out failure modes that can result in serious adverse safety consequences from interference with critical GPS-dependent aviation equipment and services,” added DePete.

After the FCC’s decision to allow relatively powerful terrestrial transmitters to operate in and adjacent to bands traditionally reserved for satellite navigation and communication services, ALPA argued that important public policy concerns raised should have been addressed in an open and comprehensive public proceeding with full and fair notice and opportunity for comment, rather than in a limited license application proceeding, and called on the FCC to reconsider this decision.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents over 59,000 pilots at 35 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit the ALPA website at or follow us on Twitter @ALPAPilots.


CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703-481-4440 or