Emirates president Tim Clark engaged in some plain-speak about US 5G network rollout near airports. The networks use similar frequency that works aircraft avionics. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Emirates airline president Tim Clark called the 5G rollout plans in the US as “utterly irresponsible”, and said the Dubai airline was not aware of the issues until a day before deployment.

The issue which centres around the US telcos operating 5G networks on the C-band frequency and too close to that used by radio altimeters on board aircraft. This has prompted airlines around the world to either put certain US routes on hold or switch to different aircraft types. Emirates has cancelled flights to nine US destinations.

“This is one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible issue I've seen in my aviation career because it involves organs of government and manufacturers,” said Clark to CNN. “The notion that 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 airfields..."

Read More

At the last minute

Clark said that Emirates was not aware of the issues until January 18 “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 US and within.

“We were not aware that the power of the antennas in the United States have been doubled compared to what's going on elsewhere. (And) we were not aware that the antennas 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.

“On that basis we took that decision late last night to suspend all our services until we had clarity."

In a new statement on Thursday, the airline added that it was resuming services to US cities.

“As a result of telecommunication operators delaying the roll-out of 5G networks around US airports, the US Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing have issued formal notifications that lift the previous restriction on aircraft operations, enabling Emirates to safely restore full scheduled operations to all its US destinations by Saturday,” the airline said.

From January 21, the airline will reinstate its Boeing 777 operations to Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth, Miami, Newark, Orlando and Seattle.

Emirates services to Los Angeles, New York JFK, and Washington DC remain unaffected. Flights to Boston, Houston and San Francisco, on which the airline had temporarily deployed A380 aircraft on January 20 and 21, will return to Boeing 777 operations on Saturday January 22.