Release #: 22.01
January 13, 2022
ALPA Pilots Vow to Keep Aviation Safe with New FAA 5G Guidance
WASHINGTON—The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), the world’s largest nongovernmental aviation safety organization, today vowed to keep flying safe as it prepares to implement the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) new guidance for operating aircraft in areas where AT&T and Verizon 5G signals will possibly interfere with critical safety systems onboard commercial passenger and cargo airliners. For years, ALPA and its industry partners have been raising the red flag on the aviation safety threat posed by the 5G C-Band spectrum that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auctioned off without requiring safety mitigations. Initially intended to launch December 5, the launch was delayed to January 5 and then again by two weeks only after the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration weighed in at the eleventh hour, forcing a postponement.
“This threat to aviation safety is real, which is why we offered to collaborate with the wireless industry to search for solutions. Now, finally, the real work has begun. We’ve made substantial progress in a short period of time, but just imagine what we could have achieved if the FCC had required these mitigations and the wireless industry had cooperated,” said Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA president. “We appreciate the serious technical work that has been done by all stakeholders to ensure flight safety, but our work is far from over. As more information is obtained and data are collected, ALPA will continue to be at the table and work constructively to establish and implement additional safety mitigations as needed. At the end of the day, pilots will decide when it’s safe to fly.”
Currently, ALPA’s technical experts are evaluating the notices to air missions (NOTAMs) published today and reviewing the specific restrictions that pilots must carefully understand when evaluating the ability to safely operate their flight, as well as plan for additional contingencies that must be considered as a result. The NOTAMs prohibit aircraft from operating in poor weather conditions at more than 90 airports with passenger service, and even more airports with all-cargo service, across the nation—severely impacting operations across the entire aviation system.
“The United States has the safest air transportation system in the world—and our pilots are trained for life to keep it that way. The operational guidance issued by the FAA to mitigate the wireless industry’s poorly thought-out deployment of 5G will ensure our pilots maintain a high level of safety. However, flight cancellations and operational disruptions will be a reality as we work to clean up the mess made by the FCC.”
Radio altimeters are key safety components found on all commercial airliners, business aircraft, and helicopters, and are susceptible to interference by C-Band 5G wireless systems. During an interference situation, the possibility of hazardously misleading radio altimeter data introduces a significant level of risk to the aircraft at the worst possible times—during approach and landing. Altitude information derived from radar altimeters is also deeply integrated into several additional aircraft systems. This potential 5G interference has been documented as a safety risk by the FAA and multiple aviation safety regulators globally.
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents more than 61,000 pilots at 38 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit the ALPA website at alpa.org or follow us on Twitter @ALPAPilots.
CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703-481-4440 or Media@alpa.org