US 5G rollout 'utterly irresponsible', says Emirates president
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US 5G rollout ‘utterly irresponsible’, says Emirates president

US 5G rollout ‘utterly irresponsible’, says Emirates president

Sir Tim Clark noted that the airline wouldn’t take any risks

Sir Tim Clark Emirates Airlines

President of Dubai carrier Emirates, Sir Tim Clark, has called out the 5G turbulence in the US, labelling the current situation as “one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible” he has witnessed in his aviation career.

Speaking to CNN’s Richard Quest, Clark said that they were not aware of the potential 5G rollout issues until Tuesday morning “to the extent that it was going to compromise the safety of operation of our aircraft and just about every other 777 operator to and from the United States, and within the United States.”

“I need to be as candid as I normally am, and say this is one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible issue subjects, call it what you like, I’ve seen in my aviation career because it involves organs of government, manufacturers, science, etc. And you know, the notion that, for instance, the United States government should sell its franchise for all the frequencies for a large amount of money. Somebody should have told them at the time – that the risks and the dangers they placed in certain frequency uses around field, airfields, metropolitan fields that should have been done at the time.”

Emirates had previously suspended flights to nine US destinations on Wednesday.

Read: Dubai’s Emirates suspends flights to nine US destinations

However, in an update on its website later in the day, the airline said that it will be suspending flights to seven US destinations on January 20, 2022. These include: Chicago (ORD), Dallas, Fort Worth (DFW), Miami (MIA), Newark (EWR), Orlando (MCO), and Seattle (SEA).

Transportation regulators had already voiced concerns that the 5G version that was scheduled to be switched on could interfere with some airplane instruments, and many aviation industry groups shared those fears, notwithstanding reassurances from federal telecom regulators and wireless carriers.

“We were aware of a 5G issue. Okay. We are aware that everybody is trying to get 5G rolled out after all it’s the super cool future of whatever it may be communication and information flow. We were not aware that the power of the antennas in the United States have been doubled compared to what’s going on elsewhere. We were not aware that the antenna themselves have been put into a vertical position rather than a slight slanting position, which then taken together compromise not only the radio altimeter systems but the flight control systems on the fly by wire aircraft. So on that basis we took that decision late Tuesday night to suspend all our services until we had clarity,” Clark said.

The airline wouldn’t take any risks, he added.

Airlines across the world are adjusting their schedules and aircraft deployments for flights to the US over fears that a 5G rollout by AT&T and Verizon Communications near American airports could interfere with key safety systems.

Korean Air said its 777 and 747-8 aircraft are affected by the 5G service, and is rearranging its fleet. Air India also warned flights to the US will be curtailed or revised from January 19.

The concerns stem from potential interference with sensitive navigation equipment used during landings in poor weather, which a trade association representing major US airlines said could lead to “catastrophic disruptions.” Frequencies within the so-called C-band being used for the 5G services are near airwaves used by aircraft radar altimeters, which track altitude and allow landings in bad weather. They also feed multiple critical safety systems.

AT&T and Verizon agreed late Tuesday to delay switching on hundreds of 5G cell towers near US airports following last-minute talks with government officials over safety concerns. The companies, which spent billions of dollars in a government auction last year for the rights, didn’t provide details on how long the suspension might last or the size or the zone around airports.

With inputs from Bloomberg 

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