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Allied Pilots Association: “We Cannot Afford Any Interference by 5G”

FORT WORTH, Texas (Dec. 8, 2021) – The Allied Pilots Association (APA), representing the 14,000 pilots of American Airlines, emphasized the need for close collaboration between the aviation and mobile wireless industries to safeguard against radio altimeter interference by 5G C-band wireless broadband signals.

Radio altimeters are cockpit instruments that show pilots how close their aircraft is to the ground, and they enable pilots to fly instrument approaches and perform auto-landings in low-visibility conditions. Radio altimeters are susceptible to interference by 5G, which can in turn also impair the functioning of terrain-avoidance systems. Currently, AT&T and Verizon are planning to roll out 5G on Jan. 5.

“Pilots rely on radio altimeters to help ensure a safe landing, and we cannot afford any interference by 5G,” said APA President Capt. Eric Ferguson. “It’s a known safety risk that must be properly managed and mitigated.”

The Federal Aviation Administration issued two related airworthiness directives this week that it said are intended “to provide a framework and to gather more information to avoid potential effects on aviation safety equipment.” The FAA noted it is working closely with the Federal Communications Commission and wireless companies and “has made progress toward safely implementing the 5G expansion. We are confident with ongoing collaboration we will reach this shared goal.”

Capt. Ferguson said the temporary restrictions that Verizon and AT&T have offered to place on 5G transmissions would provide insufficient protection against radio altimeter interference.

“If the rollout proceeds as planned, without implementing mitigations that the aviation community is recommending, we believe a significant number of flight diversions would occur, with flight crews acting out of an abundance of caution,” he said. “We do not want the passengers we serve to experience this unnecessary inconvenience.

“We agree with the FAA, the Air Line Pilots Association, and other interested parties that have expressed concerns – 5G can be deployed safely, but it must be done in close consultation with aviation safety experts,” he said. “Maintaining our country’s high standard of aviation safety must always remain our top priority.”

Founded in 1963, the Allied Pilots Association — the largest independent pilots union in the United States — is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. APA represents the 14,000 pilots of American Airlines, including several hundred pilots on full-time military leave of absence serving in the armed forces. The union’s website is AlliedPilots.org.

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