AOPA boss warns House committee of threats to GPS

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President Craig Fuller offered recommendations on new protections needed to preserve GPS’s critical role in the national airspace system in testimony today before a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s aviation subcommittee hearing.

Fuller noted that pilots rely on satellite-based systems for everything from en route navigation to precision approaches.

“Just as surface highways provide for commercial and personal transportation around the nation, GPS ‘highways’ in the sky allow for the efficient movement of people and goods via general aviation aircraft,” he said. “And just as the integrity and access to our surface infrastructure must be protected, so must the reliability and accessibility of our airborne infrastructure.”

Interference with GPS signals could jeopardize use of the foundational technology in airspace modernization efforts, Fuller warned. No formal backup is in place in case of GPS system shutdown or interference, he added.

“Access to the GPS system is also vulnerable to interference from changing uses of the broadcast spectrum,” Fuller said. “As recent events showed, powerful ground-based transmitters using spectrum adjacent to that designated for GPS are one potential source of interference. But as the demand for bandwidth continues to grow and new technologies are developed, the potential for interference will also continue to expand.”

While current policy and practice offer protection to GPS, further protections are needed, Fuller said.

“A clear statement of the need and intent to protect the system from a wide range of harmful actions would be an effective starting point,” he said. “Congress has the power to protect GPS from present and future threats.”

The recent events Fuller was referring to is an application by a company called LightSquared for a clearnance to build a broadband network in spectrums that could interfere with GPS signals.

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