Regional Airlines Call FAA Timeline for 5G Compliance ‘Unrealistic’

Washington, DC, June 6, 2022. Media contact:

The Regional Airline Association (RAA), representing 43% of scheduled passenger flights in the U.S., is calling on the FAA to change course on its approach to supporting the telecommunications industry’s 5G expansion because the current planned timeline is unrealistic, the proposed solutions will not be lasting, and the creation of priority vs. non-priority airports for mitigations will reduce all-weather access for airports the Agency deems low priority.

“We have been working in good faith toward solutions, but the timeline FAA has established is not tethered to reality,” said RAA CEO Faye Malarkey Black. “As this process continues unresolved, more airports will become inaccessible during weather.”

Airlines have been modifying their radio altimeters to counter interference from 5G transmissions. The modifications would allow telecom transmissions near airports while preserving safe operations in poor weather conditions. However, the Agency has established a system of priority and non-priority airports for telecom mitigations, under which even modified aircraft will not be able to use all airports during weather.

At the urging of telecom companies, the FAA set a year-end deadline for operators of Embraer 145 and Embraer 175 aircraft to install kits that overcome the new 5G signal interference. As the FAA knows well, these modification kits are not yet available for all aircraft and will not arrive in time for airlines to meet the announced deadline. RAA member airlines use more than 800 Embraer 145/175 aircraft to serve hundreds of airports across the US.

RAA has been active in 5G discussions for more than two years, working in good faith to find solutions following a breakdown between the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that allowed this situation to arise.

“Airlines will not shoulder the blame for a process that was forewarned and should have been appropriately mitigated before telecom was allowed to expand into the spectrum,” Black said.

RAA is further concerned that investments in modified altimeters are likely to guard against signal encroachment for only one year; after 2023, telecom companies will remove more voluntary mitigations and 5G interference will increase again.

“As telecom towers continue to be deployed at ever higher signal strengths and in the absence of assured mitigations or even adequate information, today’s filters will likely become ineffective, with costly future modifications needed each time new signal rolls out,” Black said.

RAA additionally warns against FAA’s tiering 5G remedies for “priority” vs. “non-priority” airports, which affords preferential treatment to “priority” airports compared with smaller and often rural airports.

“FAA has created two categories of airports, priority and non-priority,” said Black. “This goes against the longtime approach by FAA and the industry to have one single standard for safety and to treat all travelers and airports equally.”

“These Airports have invested millions in becoming all weather airports,” Black noted. “Restrictions to operations in low visibility conditions at “non-priority” airports reflect a troubling disregard for airports that travelers from small and rural communities rely on. Modifications after modification for safety may be needed, and this calls into question the ability of aviation and telecommunications to co-exist.”

“We urge the FAA to uphold its commitment to protecting our nation’s airspace from undue interference, whether the airspace in question is deemed a ‘priority’ or not.” Black said.

To read the full letter sent to the FAA, click here.

About RAA  

The Regional Airline Association (RAA) provides a unified voice of advocacy for North American regional airlines aimed at promoting a safe, reliable and strong regional airline industry. RAA serves as an important support network connecting regional airlines and industry business partners. In the United States, regional airlines operate 43% of scheduled passenger flights and provide the only source of scheduled air service to 66% of the nation’s airports. Regional airlines provide 75% or more of the air service in Alabama (81%), Alaska (87%), Arkansas (85%), Iowa (81%), Kansas (80%), Kentucky (76%), Maine (87%), Mississippi (94%), Montana (79%), North Dakota (87%), South Dakota (86%), Vermont (92%), West Virginia (92%). Regional airlines provide half or more of the air service in Idaho (74%), Illinois (54%), Indiana (59%), Michigan (60%), Minnesota (51%), Nebraska (65%), New Hampshire (73%), New Mexico (59%), North Carolina (56%), Ohio (56%), Oklahoma (55%), Oregon (62%), Pennsylvania (58%), Puerto Rico (71%), South Carolina (61%), Virginia (57%), Wisconsin (67%), and Wyoming (68%).