Emirates suspends flights to US destinations amid fears of disruption from 5G

Jan 19, 2021: Emirates airline has announced it is suspending flights to several US destinations due to plans to deploy 5G mobile networks.

The announcement comes after the chief executives of major US airlines warned that high-speed mobile communications networks could lead to an “aviation crisis” that could delay hundreds of flights daily. Thousands of passengers could face difficulties. The 5G service, launching in the United States on Wednesday (local time), captures a band of electrometric spectrum used by aircraft-sensitive devices.

The move comes “due to operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services in the U.S.”, adding that the destinations include Boston, Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth, Houston, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Earlier this month, chief executives of major US airlines said, “Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the travelling and shipping public will essentially be grounded,” in a letter to the White House.

Aircraft altimeters that mesaure altitude and prevent crashes operate at frequencies of 4.2-4.4 GHz. Radio altimeters are used to avoid head-on collisions.

In the US, the adjacent spectrum of 3.7-3.98 GHz (known as the C-band) has been sold to telecoms providers, for use in the new 5G networks.

The fear is these will interfere with the altimeters, blinding the instruments with signal noise. In particular, many passenger and cargo planes, use an automated landing procedure called “autoland” in low-visibility conditions.

Autoland relies on radio altimeters, aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas says.