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Qantas pilots told to fly through radio interference reportedly coming from Chinese warships

Qantas has told pilots to fly through radio interference and GPS jamming reportedly coming from Chinese warships in Asia Pacific.

In standing orders issued to pilots, Qantas says that some aircraft have experienced interference on VHF channels “purporting to represent the Chinese military” and GPS jamming from ships “off the north-west shelf of Australia”.

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But the orders added that the interference had not caused any safety problems and that pilots should report any incidents to air traffic control.

It comes after the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) issued a statement confirming the interference, and warning pilots not to respond to any of the communication coming from the warships.

They say they are aware that some aircrafts have been called on particular platforms by military warships in the Pacific region, notably the South China Sea and the Philippine Sea.

They also added that in some cases, flights were provided with vectors to avoid using the airspace over the warship.

“IFALPA has been made aware of some airlines and military aircraft being called over [radio frequencies] 121.50 or 123.45 by military warships in the Pacific region,” the statement read.

“IFALPA is engaging with IATA and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) to ensure that all parties are aligned with our procedures and to prevent this from occurring in the future.”

The Australian and International Pilots Association president, and Qantas captain, Tony Lucas said that pilots were aware of the communication, and were well equipped to deal with them.

“Our members are aware of recent reported communication and electronic interference.”

“Qantas Group pilots are well trained and remain ready to manage these sorts of issues safely in accordance with defined procedures,” he said.

Aviation expert, Neil Hansford, told the Guardian this was more a case of “annoyance” than posing any real safety concerns.

“There’s no doubt it’s Chinese military. It’s more annoyance than practicality, though, because this is not the only communication source that civil aviation use.”

“They’re also not really saying anything to these flights. This is the case of somebody who says, I can, then that I will. It’s a whole continuation of international annoyance to get people to take notice.”

Hansford said that while it was concerning that the warships were contacting flights with the VHF system, it was more concerning that they had were jamming GPS systems.

“So VHF in itself is pretty much open source if you want to listen into what’s happening in the skies. And they may be throwing some flak around using the international security and emergency channels.”

“GPS, on the other hand, is a navigational tool used widely in aviation and everyday technology, and it’s jamming is bloody serious. It’s a message, and you’ve got to take it seriously because GPS is more of a threat than VHF.”