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Huge military exercise could jam GPS for small planes flying in the Southeast, FAA says

A U.S. Navy training exercise is expected to jam GPS signals and other navigation systems intermittently over the Southeast and Caribbean from January 16-24, the FAA said in a flight advisory. (Pakphipat Charoenrach/Dreamstime/TNS)
January 18, 2020

Some pilots could be flying blind in airspace over the Southeast and Caribbean this month, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

A military training exercise attributed to “Carrier Strike Group 4” — part of the U.S. Navy — is expected to jam GPS signals and other navigation systems intermittently from Jan. 16 to 24, the FAA said in a flight advisory Monday.

“GPS testing… may result in unreliable or unavailable GPS signal,” the advisory states.

Navigation from as low as 50 feet above ground up to Flight Level 400 (around 40,000 feet) could be affected, according to an FAA map showing interference testing from a location off the Florida-Georgia coast.

Pilots can report any anomalies using this form.

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The government is required to conduct GPS testing “on occasion,” according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which coordinates with the FAA, U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Defense to plan such events.

“These training and testing activities can involve a number of aircraft, ships and/or other military equipment and up to hundreds of personnel,” the DHS website states.

They’re not easily canceled but can be put on hold for a “safety of life mission” where “GPS navigation is essential” — such as a medical evacuation flight or firefighting mission, according to the DHS.

This also isn’t the first interference test in the Southeast, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. A similar interruption in February 2019 sparked concerns from the nonprofit over civil aviation safety.

Rune Duke, the nonprofit’s senior director of airspace, air traffic and aviation security, called the exercise last year “unacceptably widespread and potentially hazardous” at the time.

According to the AOPA, hundreds of reports involving aircraft interference have been recorded during these training exercises.

“We consider the risks to GA aircraft highly concerning,” the AOPA said.

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© 2020 Miami Herald

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.