Emirates President Sir Tim Clark has called the 5G fiasco in the USA “one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible” situations he has seen in his entire aviation career and singled out U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for blame.
Emirates President Tim Clark Blames Pete Buttigieg For 5G Flight Problems
Speaking to CNN’s Richard Quest, Clark said he was blindsided by the 5G crisis “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.”
Clark first noted that the U.S. has taken a different approach to 5G than the rest of the world:
“We were aware of a 5G issue. Okay. 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.
“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.”
This has been noted by the FAA as well, though the agency has had a lead-time of over a year to prepare for this moment and had been aware of the expansion of 5G technology for four years.
Clark went on to accuse U.S. regulators, particularly U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, of failing to alert foreign airlines of the potential safety issue:
“We have evidence of letters being written to the Secretary of Transport in the US government alerting that group to what was likely to happen and its consequences.”
Clark contends U.S. airlines were alerted well in advance, but foreign airlines like Emirates were not. I’m not sure that particular charge is reasonable considering U.S. airlines have been warning about 5G technology for several months.
Still, Clark did not mince words:
“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, etc. And you know, the notion that, for instance, 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 field, airfields, metropolitan fields that should have been done at the time.”
The FAA is worried, though it has not proven, that 5G cellular antennas may cause interference with radar altimeters onboard certain aircraft. Boeing has also cryptically warned its 777 customers to avoid takeoffs and landings in the USA until the 5G issue is resolved, throwing global aviation into disarray.
> Read More: Boeing, FAA Leave Airlines Hanging On 777, 787
That has not stopped Air France from continuing 777 operations to the USA and earlier today JAL announced it would resume 777 service after a one-day suspension after Verizon and AT&T agreed to limit 5G signals around major U.S. airports.
Finally, it should be noted that the 5G news may be quite welcome to Emirates, considering it has faced scrutiny in preceding days for a pair of near-miss incidents on 777s in Dubai, one on the ground and one after takeoff.
While Clark is right to criticize how the USA has bungled the rollout of 5G, he would do well to get his own house in order as well.
Emirates President Tim Clark has expressed disgust over the U.S. handling of Verizon and AT&T’s 5G rollout and directed particular ire at Pete Buttigieg. It is not clear how long Emirates’ U.S. operations will be impacted over uncertainty over the 777 safety instruments.