Jan. 19, 2023

While the work is far from over, significant progress has been made in ensuring an aircraft’s radar altimeter can function properly as 5G C-Band deployment continues throughout the National Airspace System (NAS), FAA officials said in a recent industry briefing.

In the last year, the FAA has demonstrated aviation and 5G C-Band services can coexist safely, and the agency has worked closely with providers Verizon and AT&T to iron out concerns related to altimeter interference and other concerns. Most 5G base station towers remain active, and a retrofit plan has been developed to enhance the performance of some radio altimeters.

It’s been a constant year of progression, according to the agency, but the work is far from over, as the FAA continues to engage with Verizon, AT&T, and other telecom providers. Officials report that an operating framework exists now that wasn’t available a year ago, paving the way for 19 additional licensees expected to begin implementing their networks.

The FAA said there are tens of thousands of towers now in use within the NAS, impacting about 3,000 airports. The agency continues to receive reports of possible 5G disruptions to aviation operations, but the volume of those reports has been greatly reduced; of the 586 reports filed since last January, 90 percent have been closed after being investigated and found not to be associated with 5G interference.

The agency also said it continues to issue alternative methods of compliance (AMOCs) for the commercial fleet, with updated airport lists detailing information related to 5G considerations. The FAA’s AMOCs also are being issued for general aviation aircraft, and NBAA strongly suggests operators connect with their OEMs to find out the status of their radar altimeter upgrade if their operations are impacted.

“As part of an industry coalition, NBAA has been involved since the beginning in mitigating this issue to ensure the FAA has not ignored the impact on general aviation,” said NBAA Senior Director, Air Traffic Services and Infrastructure Heidi Williams. “Operators who have invested resources to utilize RNP AR and other operational technologies are eager to take advantage of those capabilities ,and we need the same emphasis placed on ensuring there are radar altimeter upgrades available for the general aviation community.”

Review NBAA’s 5G-related resources.