Emirates and Lufthansa cancel some flights to MIA amid concerns about 5G newly-activated tech

A Lufthansa aircraft rolls to the parking position at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Probst) (Michael Probst, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MIAMI – Emirates and Lufthansa are temporarily suspending flights to Miami International Airport amid a series of nationwide delays and cancellations on Wednesday over technological conflicts between airlines and wireless network operators.

Lufthansa canceled a flight from Frankfurt. Aside from Miami, Dubai’s Emirates also canceled flights to Orlando. Both international airlines attributed the disruptions to operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services.

“We were not aware of this until yesterday morning, to the extent that it was going to compromise the safety of the operation of our aircraft and just about every other 777 operator, to and from the United States, and within the United States,” Emirates President Tim Clark told CNN on Wednesday, adding “this is one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible issues ... I’ve seen in my aviation career.”

Federal authorities are working with AT&T and Verizon as the companies activate C-Band 5G service, the next generation of wireless tech, on Wednesday in areas of Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, Chicago, Detroit. This is amid concerns that 5G cellular antennas near the airports could affect some airplanes’ instruments.

Major wireless networks partially agree to delay 5G around airports

National challenge

On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration released a list of the commercial airports with low-visibility approaches in 5G deployment. MIA and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport were not included.

“The complex U.S. airspace leads the world in safety because of our high standards for aviation, and we will maintain this commitment as wireless companies deploy 5G,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement on Tuesday.

On Monday, the White House released a statement by President Joe Biden thanking AT&T and Verizon for working with the Department of Transportation on safe 5G deployment to will bring more high-speed internet options.

“My team has been engaging non-stop with the wireless carriers, airlines, and aviation equipment manufacturers to chart a path forward for 5G deployment and aviation to safely co-exist – and, at my direction, they will continue to do so until we close the remaining gap and reach a permanent, workable solution around these key airports.”

Feds’ warnings

The FAA issued an airworthiness notification to the international community on Jan. 14 warning about the “ongoing continued operational safety activities related to 5G C-Band interference with airplane systems using radio (also known as radar) altimeter data during landing on Boeing Model 787-8, 787-9, and 787-10 airplanes.”

The FAA cleared Boeing’s 737, 747, 757, 767, MD-10 and MD-11 and the Airbus A310, A319, A320, A321, A330 and A350, for low-visibility landings — even in locations with 5G deployments.

FAA update on Jan. 19 (FAA)

On Jan. 7, the FAA issued a list of the 50 airports that needed a 5G buffer, and it included MIA and FLL. The FAA announced the wireless companies agreed to turn off transmitters and make other adjustments near these airports for six months.

The FAA issued a warning about the “risk of potential adverse effects on radio altimeters” on Dec. 23 and a bulletin on Nov. 2. The deployment was delayed on Jan. 5 and Dec. 5.

For more flight information out of MIA, visit this page.

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Emirates and Lufthansa are temporarily suspending flights to Miami International Airport amid of delays and cancellations on Wednesday nationwide.

About the Authors:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.