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Russian GPS Jamming Has Forced This European Airline to Cancel Flights to Estonia’s Second Largest City Over Safety Fears

Russian GPS Jamming Has Forced This European Airline to Cancel Flights to Estonia’s Second Largest City Over Safety Fears

a white airplane on a runway

Finnair says it has been forced to cancel flights to Estonia’s second-largest city because widespread GPS jamming in the region has made it unsafe to land at Tartu International Airport.

The decision to suspend services to Tartu for at least one month means that the city of nearly 100,000 people, which lies just 35 miles from the border with Russia, no longer has any international flights connecting it to the rest of the world.

Finnair usually operates at least one daily service to Tartu from its hub in Helsinki using a small ATR twin-prop regional aircraft for a short 45-minute flight. The approach to Tartu requires a GPS signal, but sophisticated Russian jamming has made it impossible for Finnair to land at Tartu.

In the last week alone, two Finnair flights to Tartu had to divert back to Helsinki because GPS interference made it unsafe for the plane to land.

“Most airports use alternative approach methods, but some airports, such as Tartu, only use methods that require a GPS signal to support them,” explained Finnair’s director of operations, Jari Paajanen.

“The GPS interference in Tartu forces us to suspend flights until alternative solutions have been established.” 

Paajanen is hopeful that the one-month suspension will give Finnair enough time to establish an alternative approach and landing protocol at Tartu, which doesn’t require a GPS signal.

“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 continued.

Matt’s take

GPS interference is becoming an increasingly common problem facing airlines around the world. The amount of GPS interference has increased considerably since 2022, when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Areas particularly prone to GPS interference are along the Russian border, as well as around Israel and Jordan, which has been attributed to the Israeli Defence Forces.

As Paajanen notes, pilots are more than accustomed to dealing with GPS interference and in most cases, flights can safely operate in areas affected by GPS jamming.

You can see GPS jamming for yourself on popular flight tracking websites like Flight Radar 24, especially around the eastern Mediterranean, where plane tracks suddenly disappear, or, in some cases, where Tel Aviv-bound flights are erroneously recorded as landing in Beirut – something that obviously isn’t going to happen!

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