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Finnair Suspends Flights To Tartu Due To GPS Interference

Finnair suspends flights to Tartu for a month.

Finnair will temporarily suspend its daily flights to Tartu, Estonia, from April 29 through May 31 to allow Tartu Airport to develop and implement non-GPS-based approach methods. This decision follows recent incidents where GPS interference forced flights to return to Helsinki. During suspension, affected customers will be notified and informed about alternative arrangements. Finnair is the sole international airline servicing the Tartu route.

Finnair Airbus A330
Airbus A330 Finnair

“We apologize for the inconvenience the suspension causes to our customers. Flight safety is always our top priority, and as the approach to Tartu currently requires a GPS signal, we cannot fly there in the event of GPS interference,” says Jari Paajanen, Finnair’s Director of Operations. 

“The systems on Finnair’s aircraft detect GPS interference, our pilots are well aware of the issue, and the aircraft have other navigation systems that can be used when the GPS system is unserviceable,” Paajanen says. “Most airports use alternative approach methods, but some airports, such as Tartu, only use methods that require a GPS signal to support them. The GPS interference in Tartu forces us to suspend flights until alternative solutions have been established.” 

Finnair Sees A Rise In GPS Interference

Since 2022, Finnair pilots have reported increased GPS interference, especially near regions like Kaliningrad, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, and the Eastern Mediterranean. Despite these interferences, they maintain that flight safety and routes have remained largely unaffected. Pilots prepare for such issues, and aircraft feature alternative navigation systems to manage these disruptions.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the International Air Transport Association are addressing spoofing and jamming threats to Global Navigation Satellite Systems, which impact aircraft positioning. At an EASA workshop, discussions centered on enhancing aviation safety through data exchange on incidents and solutions. Luc Tytgat, EASA’s Acting Executive Director, emphasized the need to rapidly equip pilots and crews with skills to manage these risks. Future updates are planned for navigation and landing system certifications and satellite navigation designs to mitigate these threats.

“Airlines are seeing a significant rise in incidents of GNSS interference,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. “To counter this, we need coordinated collection and sharing of GNSS safety data; universal procedural GNSS incident guidance from aircraft manufacturers; a commitment from States to retain traditional navigation systems as backup in cases where GNSS are spoofed or jammed. In actioning these items, the support and resources of EASA and other governmental authorities are essential. And airlines will be critical partners. And whatever actions are taken, they must be the focal point of the solution as they are the front line facing the risk.”

GPS ‘Spoofing’ & ‘Jamming’

GNSS, which includes systems like the US Global Positioning System and the EU’s Galileo, offers crucial Positioning, Navigation, and Timing services. Recently, these services have been compromised by jamming and spoofing incidents in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and globally. Jamming blocks GNSS signals, while spoofing sends false data to receivers. This poses significant safety risks as spoofing can corrupt GPS data and render backup inertial navigation systems unreliable. This leads to the Flight Management System misinterpreting the aircraft’s position and corrupting the entire navigation system.

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