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Pilots alerted to GPS-jamming exercises in Southwest

The FAA has notified pilots flying to and from the Las Vegas area that non-RNAV re-routings may be necessary during a Department of Defense training exercise that intentionally degrades or denies GPS signals, resulting in the loss of GPS navigation services for civilian users.

The exercise, taking place at times designated by notices to airmen, began Jan. 26 and is scheduled to continue until Feb. 18, according to an FAA flight advisory.

Aircraft operating in Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center’s airspace may experience navigational disruption, the FAA said, noting that arrivals and departures from airports in the Las Vegas area may receive “airborne re-routes to the south and east of the affected area.”

Procedures including “descend-via” and “climb-via” clearances may be suspended during affected times; non-RNAV standard instrument departures (SIDs) and standard terminal arrivals (STARs) may be issued within the center’s airspace “in the event of increased navigational disruption,” the FAA said in a memo describing potential impacts of the testing.

Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic, noted that AOPA co-chairs an industry committee that reviews GPS-jamming events and works with the FAA to ensure that they cause minimal disruption to general aviation operations when the Red Flag war games training is in progress.

Duke urged pilots who experience a GPS malfunction to document the event by filling out a GPS Anomaly Reporting Form available on the FAA website.

“Filling out the electronic report is the only sure way to capture how often interference occurs,” he said. “Air traffic control does not track all reports they receive.”

Duke noted that the FAA and Defense Department work closely to coordinate intentional GPS interference events to ensure there are “mitigations in place to prevent an unacceptable safety risk.”

Precautions include conducting the events during low-impact times of day; restricting tests that would cause overlapping signal degradation at high altitude; providing 72 hours’ notice of activation by notams; not taking critical navaids or radar out of service during a GPS-interference event; and immediately ceasing a GPS-interference event for flight safety, firefighting, traffic flow, and other reasons.

“Pilots should check notams via the FAA’s Notam Search webpage for the actual times of interference because the schedule routinely changes from what is published in the advisory,” he said.

No GPS-jamming events occur during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday periods, he said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Airspace, Notams

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