“Stop Buzzer”

  Steve WolfMay 8, 2019  

I was participating in a discussion with other pilots about GPS jamming, and someone commented that there’s a way to get the military to stop the jamming if it is affecting your flight.  Just say Stop Buzzer on the radio.

I experienced a jamming event in 2017 on my way back from California.  From Wells, NV (KLWL) all the way to Ogden, UT (KOGD), 130nm, there was a GPS outage.  Since I learned to fly before the advent of GPS, it was almost second nature to switch over to VORs and airways and pilotage for that segment of the flight, and other than the novelty, it was a non-event.

However, some pilots relying on GPS might truly have an emergency.  Suppose they’re low on fuel in LIFR and their refueling stop only has a GPS approach.  They’ll crash from fuel starvation if they can’t land now.  It is for perilous situations like this that Stop Buzzer may be used.

It should be considered an emergency phrase, like Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!.  It must be broadcast on 121.5MHz.  The Pilot/Controller Glossary says that Stop Buzzer (along with synonyms Stop Burst and Stop Stream) is a way for ATC “to request a pilot to suspend electronic attack activity.”  It’s not defined as a way for pilots to request ATC to request someone to suspend electronic attack activity.  However, that’s what AOPA is urging pilots to use it for.

It shouldn’t be transmitted if you’re merely inconvenienced.  Imagine a flight of F-18s roaring through a MOA with their latest iteration of jamming-hardened GPS, burning tens of thousands of tax dollars of fuel in a meticulously planned exercise.  They get a call from ATC saying, “Hey guys, we have a Cessna puttering along at 100 knots over in Utah and the pilot’s upset that his moving map on Foreflight isn’t tracking.  Could you guys please turn off your toys and come back tomorrow?  He’d really appreciate it.”

The particular phraseology might not come to mind in an emergency, because it’s not entirely descriptive, like Stop Jamming or I Need My GPS Back would be.  You might want to print up a label that says 121.5 STOP BUZZER and stick it on your panel next to your GPS.

I suggest a practice flight task to boost your proficiency.  Cover up all your GPS devices (on Foreflight, turn off the iPad’s GPS receiver) and practice flying without GPS.  Go back to the airway system, remembering to identify VORs and to switch midway between them on an airway.  Use pilotage to move your Foreflight map with your finger so it shows your current location.

GPS has changed the way we fly, but its signals are very low power and easy to jam.  Let’s remember how to fly without it, just in case.