Transportation

Emirates president labels 5G rollout ‘utterly irresponsible’

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The president of Emirates airline on Wednesday said the rollout of 5G technology has been “utterly irresponsible,” as some international airlines scramble to cancel flights to the U.S. amid concerns that the new technology may cause travel disruptions.

When asked during an interview with CNN what he makes of the 5G rollout in the U.S., Tim Clark said it is “one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible issue, subjects, call it what you like, I’ve seen in my aviation career.”

“Somebody should have told them a long time ago that it would compromise safety of operation of aircraft in metropolitan areas with catastrophic consequences if this was allowed to continue,” said the 50-year industry veteran. “I think that message got through at a very late stage.”

Clark’s comments come after Verizon and AT&T announced that they will temporarily delay their 5G deployment around key airports to help deter air travel interruptions.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been concerned that the new technology, specifically cellular antennas around airports, could pose a safety risk by skewing aircraft equipment readings that pilots use to know their altitude from the ground, according to CNN.

A number of international airlines based outside the U.S., however, have already announced that they will be suspending flights to some locations in the U.S. because of the impending 5G deployment, including Air India, Japan Airlines and Emirates.

Clark on Wednesday said his airline did not know about some of the potential issues that come with the 5G deployment until Tuesday morning. He said the airline was not notified “to the extent that it was going to compromise the safety of operation of our aircraft and just about every other [Boeing] 777 operator to and from the United States and within the United States.”

“We were aware of a 5G issue. OK, 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,” Clark said.

“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 last night to suspend all our services until we had clarity,” he added.

President Biden on Tuesday expressed his gratitude to Verizon and AT&T for their decision to temporarily delay the 5G rollout near key airports, saying, “This agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90 percent of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled.”

Tags 5G rollout Emirate airline Joe Biden Tim Clark

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