Emirates to resume Boeing 777 flights to US after 5G go-ahead

FAA gives approval for more types of planes to land in low visibility near 5G signals

Last modified on Thu 20 Jan 2022 14.12 EST

The long-haul carrier Emirates has said it will resume its Boeing 777 flights to the US after halting its use of the aircraft there over concerns new 5G services in the country could interfere with planes’ instruments that measure altitude.

International carriers that rely heavily on the wide-body 777 and other Boeing aircraft cancelled early flights or switched to different planes on Wednesday after warnings from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Chicago-based plane-maker about possible 5G interference with radio altimeters.

Late on Wednesday the FAA gave approval for more types of planes to land in low visibility near 5G signals, including the Boeing 777.

Among the airlines most affected by the FAA decision was the Dubai-based Emirates, a crucial east-west carrier that flies only the 777 and the double-decker Airbus A380.

Emirates said its Boeing 777 services to Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth, Miami, Newark, Orlando and Seattle would resume on Friday. Flights to Boston, Houston and San Francisco, for which Emirates had deployed its A380s, will resume Boeing 777 flights on Saturday.

Tim Clark, Emirates’ president, apologised to customers for the disruption. “Safety will always be our top priority and we will never gamble on this front,” he said. “We welcome the latest development which enables us to resume essential transport links to the US to serve travellers and cargo shippers.”

However, he added: “We are also very aware that this is a temporary reprieve, and a long-term resolution would be required.” This refers to Verizon and AT&T only temporarily reducing the rollout of 5G near dozens of airports as the FAA assesses which aircraft are safe to fly near the new 5G frequencies and which will need new altimeters.

Similar 5G mobile networks have been deployed in more than three dozen countries, but there are key differences in how the US networks are designed that raised concern about potential problems for airlines.

The Verizon and AT&T networks use a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to the one used by radio altimeters, devices that measure the height of aircraft above the ground to help pilots land in low visibility.

The Federal Communications Commission, which set a buffer between the frequencies used by 5G and altimeters, has said the wireless service poses no risk to aviation. But FAA officials saw a potential problem.

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