First-ever GPS jamming incident disrupts transatlantic flight


Incident of GPS Jamming Affects Transatlantic Flight from Madrid to Toronto

On June 19th, a transatlantic flight from Madrid to Toronto encountered a rare and concerning incident of GPS jamming, affecting its ability to ascend to a higher altitude. Shanwick Oceanic Control, responsible for overseeing the airspace in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean, reported that the aircraft was unable to climb due to apparent GPS interference affecting other planes at that altitude.

The air traffic control communications revealed that the GPS jamming forced aircraft on the Madrid-Toronto route to operate in a “degraded mode,” a situation previously unseen along Atlantic routes. While backup navigation systems ensure the safety of flights in such scenarios, the broader safety risk posed by GPS interference was highlighted by the Institute for the Study of War.

The incident raised concerns about the impact on air traffic over the Atlantic, as GPS-based ADS-B transponders play a crucial role in tracking aircraft positions and maintaining safe distances to prevent collisions. With GPS signal failure necessitating wider separations between planes, route capacity could be significantly reduced.

The Resilient Timing and Navigation Foundation warned that if GPS jamming becomes a regular occurrence over the busy Atlantic airspace, thousands of flights could face delays and cancellations. This incident sheds light on the common tactics used by Russia, with reports of GPS jamming in Nordic and Baltic regions, as well as electronic warfare tactics in Ukraine.

Furthermore, the effects of GPS jamming were felt beyond aviation, with reports of signal interference impacting residents in Cyprus, causing disruptions to location-tracking devices, maps, food delivery services, and dating apps. The incident underscores the growing concerns surrounding GPS security and the potential implications for various sectors reliant on accurate navigation systems.

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