Emirates president Tim Clark has lambasted US authorities over 5G deployments that have forced major international airlines to cancel passenger services to several American destinations. 

The Dubai-based carrier, as well as other airlines that operate wide-body Boeing 777 and other Boeing aircraft, suspended flights into the US after aviation experts raised concerns that the high-speed wireless service could pose a threat to airline safety. 

The 5G networks were switched on in the US on January 19, although AT&T and Verizon have reportedly scaled back the rollout in areas near airports following warnings issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. The new 5G network signals are believed to interfere with flight control systems and radio altimeters, which are critical for landings, in some aircraft types, including Boeing 777 and 787. 

According to Clark, Emirates was not aware of the potential security issues until Tuesday morning “to the extent that it was going to compromise the safety of operation” of their 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,” Clark said in an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest. 

“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 on Tuesday halted its services from Dubai to Chicago, Miami, Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, New York Newark, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle.  

Clark said the services will remain suspended “until we had clarity” on the security issues around 5G networks.  

“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,” Clark said. 

Other airlines in Asia and Europe have also suspended their flights, including Japan Airlines, British Airways and Air India. 

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria) 


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