Over the next few days, GPS systems may be unreliable or unavailable due to a military testing exercise, according to the FAA.
The exercise will require jamming of GPS signals for periods of several hours during the event.
The FAA says navigation guidance, ADS-B and other services associated with GPS could be affected for up to 400 nautical miles at Flight Level 400, down to a radius of 180 nm at 50 feet above the ground.
The upcoming dates for the exercise will be as follows:
- Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Thursday, Jan. 23 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Friday, Jan. 24 from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Pilots are encouraged to report anomalies in accordance with the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) paragraphs 1-1-13 and 5-3-3. Reports may be submitted using this online form.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association reported on a similar event last year and say they’re aware of hundreds of reports of interference to aircraft during these types of events, which they consider to be highly concerning.
AOPA reported that one aircraft lost navigation capability and did not regain it until after landing and other reports have highlighted aircraft veering off course and heading toward active military airspace.
What does this mean for us?
The good news is, this will not impact the navigation systems in our cars or the maps we use on our phones.
However, pilots who take off and land commercial airliners at RSW will have to take precautions. But GPS jamming is actually something they train for and are prepared to deal with.
Flying a plane requires training, and that training includes knowing how to fly without GPS.
“In your training to become a pilot, you learn not only GPS navigation but also radio navigation which is what we used before GPS,” said retired Air Force and Delta pilot, Wayne Merrill.
The same goes for everyone on the ground. We used to get around in our cars without GPS, but it’s more reliable and convenient.
Merrill explained what it’s like for pilots when military exercises demand the jamming of our GPS.
“You can still use the GPS,” he said, “but you have to be aware that it may not be accurate.”
These exercises train pilots to understand exactly that, and how to navigate without GPS.
For the military, this is regular and routine. While all pilots train for this, that doesn’t mean they like it.
In a 2019 survey done by AOPA, more than 64% of 1,200 pilots reported concern about the interference on their GPS.
“In these events when an aircraft loses GPS signal, it may lose the ability to navigate on its own and in some instances, they had continued flying towards restricted areas where they should not be,” said AOPA senior director of government affairs, Rune Duke.
Thus, commercial pilots know the drill and every major airline we spoke to said they don’t expect any problems.
An advocacy group for pilots said they do worry the GPS jamming underway could cause problems for pilots with less experience in the air.