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Solar Flares to affect GPS


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It's been known since 2006... solar flares over the next six months will have the ability to seriously disrupt GPS signals here on Earth. As part of an 11-year cycle, solar flares are expected to be unusually intense through the early part of 2012. The last big solar flare (not part of the big cycle) caused disruptions back in 2006. Then, the flares were larger than anticipated, but not nearly as large as the flares expected over the next several months. The 2006 flares caused disruptions of the GPS system for up to 90 minutes, but usually much less time.


The upcoming flares are likely to have much more affect, as we rely on the system much more now than back in 2006... and the flares could last longer and affect the system for longer periods of time.


The first big flares happened on Friday, Aug 5th. Disruptions were expected over the weekend, but specific accounts of the outages have not been tabulated yet.

Some articles: 2006 research report AVWeb news


Bottom line... the flares are "expected" to produce short periods of "loss of signal"... probably no big deal, as service should normally be working again in 10-15 minutes. In the meantime... fly the plane!

Those of us who fly soley with GPS need to do a little extra prep... and review those charts. Imagine being 200 miles into an unfamiliar point-to-point GPS trip... and suddenly being without GPS for a while... especially if it happened during another emergency.

BTW... you might remember that the GPS system was reported as already at risk, as the Air Force has been a bit remiss on replacing satellites and doing maintenance on the sytem.


Interesting note: an estimated 40% of the nations 140,000 functioning GA aircraft have GPS... according to FAA. I suspect a lot of recent aircraft have GPS only... and no VOR.



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