Qantas airline warns pilots of Chinese warships causing radio traffic interference over South China Sea

Pilots have been told not to respond to the Chinses warships

Australian airline Qantas has warned its pilots about radio interference and GPS jamming coming from Chinese military vessels. 

The airline said some of its planes have experienced interference on VHF channels "purporting to represent the Chinese military," in the South China Sea, The Guardian reported. The reported interference has not caused any safety issues and pilots were told to report such incidents to air traffic control. 

The Australian and International Pilots Association president, and Qantas captain, Tony Lucas, released a statement last week saying interference had been detected. 


Qantas plane lands in Sydney, Australia

A Qantas jet is parked on the tarmac next to firetrucks at Sydney International Airport after making an emergency landing in Sydney, on Wednesday, Jan. 18. The airlines has said pilots have experienced radio interference from Chinese warships in the (Jeremy Ng/AAP Image via AP / AP Images)

"Our members are aware of recent reported communication and electronic interference," he said. "Qantas Group pilots are well trained and remain ready to manage these sorts of issues safely in accordance with defined procedures."

Earlier this month, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations issued a statement confirming the interference. 

"IFALPA has been made aware of some airlines and military aircraft being called over 121.50 or 123.45 by military warships in the Pacific region, notably South China Sea, Philippine Sea, East of Indian Ocean," the group said. 

It urged pilots not to respond to the warships. 

"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 group added. 


Meanwhile, tensions between China and Australia have been fraught in recent years. President Biden and the leaders of Australia and the United Kingdom announced in San Diego last week that Australia would purchase nuclear-powered attack submarines from the U.S. to modernize its fleet amid growing concern about China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.

The AUKUS deal — named after Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States — provoked an angry reaction from China, which accused Australia of going down a "path of error and danger."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.