LightSquared's silence on safety 'baffling'

August 15, 2011

The failure of communications venture LightSquared to face up to its proposed wireless network’s GPS-jamming threat to aviation safety is “baffling and unacceptable,” said AOPA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) in a regulatory filing Aug. 15.

LightSquared ducked the safety-of-flight question in its most recent statements, but aviation industry participants worldwide have spoken up about the dangers posed by the planned network that was conditionally approved in January by a Federal Communications Commission bureau, the associations said.

Based on that record, the FCC should rescind the authorization, “which cannot be safely implemented,” wrote Melissa Rudinger, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs, and Jens Hennig, GAMA vice president of operations. Their remarks—which reiterated the associations’ request that the FCC terminate LightSquared’s network authorization—were conveyed in an Aug. 15 supplement to joint comments filed Aug. 1.

LightSquared has conceded that its use of powerful ground stations as a component of its proposed mobile-satellite network, transmitting in portions of the electromagnetic spectrum close to GPS frequencies, would interfere with GPS navigation. In past comments on test results that confirmed the problems, the company proposed a six-month pause in its network development—but also blamed GPS receiver design for the conflict. On Aug. 11, the company filed new comments with the FCC, and issued a statement without acknowledging the flight-safety concerns that have galvanized the worldwide aviation industry.

AOPA and GAMA urged the FCC to note LightSquared’s omission.

“With not only millions of lives but billions of dollars in cargo transport riding on the safety of air flights annually, LightSquared’s and its allies’ silence in the face of this substantial evidence of aviation harm is baffling and unacceptable,” the associations said. “The massive negative impact that the evidence shows that LightSquared’s proposed operations will cause warranted some response from LightSquared; instead the Commission has received nothing but silence.”

LightSquared’s responses diverge from scientific principles and are contradicted by “any reasonable construction” of the technical record, the associations said. They urged the FCC to conclude that there is no evidence that LightSquared can “implement its revised proposal today, in six months, or at any foreseeable point in the future.”