The president of Emirates tells CNN that the airline was not aware of some of the potential 5G rollout issues until yesterday morning, calling the situation “one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible” he has seen in his aviation career.
Major international airlines are scrambling to modify or cancel flights to the United States amid uncertainty about potential interference between new 5G cell phone services and critical airplane technologies. Emirates has canceled flights to nine US destinations today. Speaking to CNN’s Richard Quest today, Emirates president Tim Clark said that they were not aware of the issues until yesterday 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.”
Transportation regulators had already been concerned that the version of 5G that was scheduled to be switched on could interfere with some airplane instruments, and many aviation industry groups shared those fears — despite reassurances from federal telecom regulators and wireless carriers.
Specifically, the Federal Aviation Administration has been worried that 5G cellular antennas near some airports — not air travelers’ mobile devices — could throw off readings from some aircraft equipment designed to tell pilots how far they are from the ground. Those systems, known as radar altimeters, are used throughout a flight and are considered critical equipment. (Radar altimeters differ from standard altimeters, which rely on air pressure readings and do not use radio signals to gauge altitude.)