(BIVN) – U.S. Representative Kaialiʻi Kahele (D-HI), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as well as an airline pilot, had the chance to question federal officials Wednesday concering the conflicts between the deployment of 5G technologies and the aviation industry.
Rep. Kahele participated in a House Aviation Subcommittee hearing, entitled “Finding the Right Frequency: 5G Deployment & Aviation Safety”. According to subcommittee chair Rick Larsen (D-WA), “the aviation industry has expressed concerns about 5G interference as far back as 2015 at the World Radio Conference,” and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, “the federal agency responsible for coordinating spectrum policy, failed to communicate the FAA concerns through the formalized FCC process.”
“If we look at what has happened, and we found ourselves in this absolutely ridiculous inexcusable situation,” commented Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), “after knowing for years that there were challenges here, that there were issues here, and finding ourselves in a situation where at the very last minute their claims, cries, demands, what have you, to delay deployment in something that was entirely preventable” years before.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said that as the communications industry deploys more towers that end up “right in the flight path” there will “have to be some restrictions and agreements, because we cannot have conflicting industries. Having a dropped call is way less serious than having a dropped airplane out of the sky.”
Here a transcript from Rep. Kahele’s time during which he questioned Steve Dickson, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, who was a witness on the first panel during the hearing:
REP. KAHELE: “Aloha to Chair Larson and ranking member Graves and Administrator Dickson for convening his critical hearing, so that we can ensure that our subcommittee is able to conduct proper oversight into the deployment of 5g.
“As a commercial airline pilot with Hawaiian Airlines, I understand firsthand the importance that radio altimeters play to ensure pilots are able to fly in all weather conditions. The aviation industry has spent years warning that 5g signals could cause radio frequency interference with altimeters, and I’m disheartened that it has come to this point. There was clearly a breakdown in the interagency communications process. I think Chair DeFazio highlighted the failure of the Trump administration to put the right people in the right positions to ensure that this didn’t happen. It did, and as a result it has disrupted millions of passengers in our community, and our communities, especially our airlines.
“I have a question for Administrator Dickson. The first question I have is – and I can only speak for the airline that I work for – Hawaiian Airlines AMOCs (Alternative Method of Compliance) expire on 28 February 2022. That’s in 25 days. I don’t know what the other expiration dates for all the other U.S. airlines and the locations that they fly to when their AMOCs expire, I can only speak to Hawaii’s flagship airline, which expire on 28 Feb 2022. The amount of workload that pilots have to deal with, that the airlines, the dispatchers have to deal with… they’re already stressed and dealing with covid, and now they have to deal with potential disruptions in their instrument approaches for CAT II and CAT III runways.
“And so my question is, what is the plan between now and the next 25 days? Are we going to extend those AMOCs again? Are we going to get right up to the 23rd, 24th of February and potentially have another disruptive day throughout our nation’s airspace system? What are we doing to plan between now and the next 25 days for, not just this airlines current AMOCs but the other U.S. domestic fleets AMOCs that potentially have expirations dates in the near future?”
DICKSON: “Congressman, thank you very much for the question, because as you point out very correctly, predictability and consistency is extremely important in our business. I’m an operator myself. I’m a pilot myself. I know exactly what you’re talking about. The last thing that you want is uncertainty on the flight deck or at the dispatch desk.
“The reason that the AMOCs expire is based on the next tranche that we expect from the telecommunications companies, and their ability to be able to provide us with precise latitude, longitude, elevation, signal shape – all the things that I talked about earlier – so that we can apply that.
“We have a tool that we have developed in the last few weeks that allows us to take their data – and this is getting to be more and more of a routine occurrence – we take their data, we put it into the tool and determine where the pressure points are, and whether the their next deployment will comport with our safety model around airports to ensure safe performance for radio altimeters.
“That process has been – because the initial deployment happened on the on the 19th of January, then there was another tranche right the first of February – there’s been pretty rapid succession of AMOCs. We expect for that cadence to be longer as we go forward.
“We’ve asked for as much forward visibility as we possibly can. And this gets into the difference that I talked about a minute ago between the two industries, about how new technologies are rolled out. This time of year, the telcos are experiencing delays with work crews and things like that. We’re learning a lot about their business and I promise you, we’re going to smooth this process out and make it more predictable, because that is in everyone’s best interest. And they’ve committed to work with us on that.”
REP. KAHELE: “Thanks, administrator. I use my last 20 seconds just for a yes or no answer. Can you assure our operators on the flight deck and the passengers in the back that to these critical airports that require CAT II CAT III approaches, that these airports are safe to fly into and execute a successful instrument approach with the current AMOCs that exist today?”
DICKSON: “Absolutely. Safety is something that we will not compromise. If we’ve authorized low visibility operations, you can count on the level of safety for the performance of those systems that we’ve always counted on.”