Emirates president calls airline’s 5G rollout problems ‘totally irresponsible’

The president of Emirates told CNN that the airline was unaware of some of the potential problems in the 5G rollout until yesterday morning, calling the situation “one of a kind, completely irresponsible act.” responsibility” that he had seen in his aviation career.

Major international airlines are scrambling to modify or cancel flights to the United States amid uncertainty over potential interference between new 5G cell phone services and important aircraft technologies important. Emirates canceled flights to nine US destinations today.

Speaking to CNN’s Richard Quest today, Emirates president Tim Clark said they were unaware of the issues until yesterday morning “to the extent that it would affect the operational safety of our aircraft.” us and of every other 777 operator to and from the United States and within the United States.”

Traffic regulators have been concerned that the version of 5G that is expected to be enabled could cause interference with some aircraft equipment, and many aviation industry groups have shared those concerns – despite reassurances by the airline. federal telecommunications regulators and wireless service providers.

Specifically, the Federal Aviation Administration was worried that 5G mobile antennas near some airports – not airline customers’ mobile devices – could falsify readings from some aircraft equipment. designed to let pilots know how far off the ground they are. Those systems, known as radar altimeters, are used during the flight and are considered vital equipment. (Radar altimeters are different from standard altimeters, which are based on air pressure readings and do not use radio signals to measure altitude.)

In December, the FAA issued an emergency order banning pilots from using potentially affected altimeters around airports where low visibility conditions would require them. That new rule could prevent planes from reaching certain airports under certain circumstances, as pilots won’t be able to land using the devices alone.

“We knew about the 5G issue. Okay. We know that everyone is trying to roll out 5G because that’s the great future of anything be it information and communication flows. We were not aware that the antenna power in the United States had been doubled compared to what was happening elsewhere We were not aware that the antenna itself was positioned in a straight position. standing rather than a slightly tilted position, this then compromised not only the radio altimeter system but also the flight control system on the aircraft moving by wire. So on that basis. , we made the decision late last night to suspend all of our services until we have clarity,” he added, telling Richard Quest the airline would not accept it. any risk.

When asked about the situation, Clark said: “I need to be as frank as usual and say this is one of the most illegal issues, completely irresponsible, call it what you like, I seen in my aviation career because it involves government agencies, manufacturers, science, etc. And you know, the concept that, for example, the US government should sell the franchise their business for all frequencies for a large sum.Someone should have told them at the time – that the risks and dangers they posed in certain frequencies of use around fieldwork, airports, urban fields that should have been done at the time.”

The Emirates president added that services will be restored if deployment is suspended and suspicions of interference by their aircraft systems during approach and landing are cleared.

AT&T, which owns CNN’s parent company, and Verizon both announced Tuesday that they will delay the activation of 5G on certain towers around certain airports. The deployment of the wireless technology near major airports was scheduled for Wednesday.

“We’re disappointed that the FAA hasn’t been able to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting services,” said Megan Ketterer, an AT&T spokeswoman. aviation service. .

The Biden administration welcomed the delay, saying in a statement that “the agreement will avoid disruptions that could impact passenger travel, freight operations and our economic recovery.” me, while allowing more than 90% of wireless tower deployments to go on schedule.”

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