By Victor Shalton
Emirates Resumes U.S. Flights Despite 5G Interruptions
Emirates has announced it will restore its full scheduled operations to all its U.S. destinations that were suspended last week based on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing recommendations on possible interference between the 5G antennas and aircraft systems.
The services resumption is also a result of telecommunication operators delaying the rollout of 5G networks around US airports, with FAA and Boeing issuing formal notifications that lift the previous restriction on aircraft operations.
From January 21, the airline reinstated its Boeing 777 operations to Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth, Miami, Newark, Orlando and Seattle.
Emirates services to Los Angeles, New York JFK, and Washington D.C. remain unimpacted while flights to Boston, Houston and San Francisco, on which the airline had temporarily deployed its larger A380 aircraft last week, returned to Boeing 777 operations on Saturday.
The airline also operates Boeing 777 freighter aircraft to Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Columbus and Aguadilla, carrying exports and essential cargo such as food and life-saving medicines and pharmaceuticals.
Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline said in a statement, “We apologise for the inconvenience caused to our customers by the temporary suspension of flights to some of our US destinations. Safety will always be our top priority, and we will never gamble on this front. We welcome the latest development which enables us to resume essential transport links to the US to serve travellers and cargo shippers. However, we are also very aware that this is a temporary reprieve, and a long-term resolution would be required. Emirates will continue to work closely with the aircraft manufacturers and relevant regulators to ensure the safety and continuity of our services.”
Why is 5G rollout a problem?
The United States auctioned mid-range 5G bandwidth to mobile phone companies in early 2021 in the 3.7-3.98 GHz range on the spectrum known as C band, for around $80 billion.
Last week, chief executives of major U.S. passenger and cargo airlines warned of a “catastrophic” aviation crisis as telecommunications firms AT&T and Verizon planned to deploy new 5G services.
They said the new C band 5G service that was set to be rolled out on Wednesday of last week could render a significant number of aircraft unusable, causing chaos for U.S. flights and potentially stranding passengers.
The FAA had warned that the new 5G technology could interfere with instruments such as altimeters, which measure how far above the ground an airplane is travelling among other utilities.
While the altimeters operate in the 4.2-4.4 GHz range, the concern is that the auctioned frequencies sit too close to this range. Additionally, the altimeter readouts are also used to facilitate automated landings and to help detect dangerous currents called wind shear per Reuters.
According to the Washington Post, the FAA announced on Thursday it had cleared more than three-quarters of the U.S.’ commercial fleet to land at airports where interference from 5G signals could pose a danger in bad weather, with the agency having reviewed the radar altimeters to determine whether they can still provide reliable measurements of altitude in areas with 5G tower.
The agency also indicated that some planes might never secure approvals.