Compliance with the ICAO requirement for aircraft on virtually all extended international operations to be equipped with an automatic 406-MHz ELT leads off a
full dozen equipment compliance requirements over the next year. Those who follow our monthly “Compliance Countdown” column will notice this month a sea of items highlighted in red. This means compliance with the requirements for these items comes due in the next 12 months.
To prevent flying illegally or being grounded (as were the operators of some 600 business jets who failed to meet the January compliance date for ELTs in U.S.-registered bizjets) or being significantly inconvenienced and inefficient (read additional flight time and fuel consumed), operators should already be deeply into preparing for the many upcoming compliances. If there is one theme coming from aviation associations and regulators, it is this: don’t wait, thinking the requirements might go away.
Over the next 12 months, there are compliance deadlines for TAWS in Europe and the U.S.; ACAS II in Europe; RVSM in the U.S. and Canada; Subpart K compliance
by the major fractional aircraft operators; and enhanced surveillance transponders and upgraded mode-S transponders in Europe.
Perhaps the most misunderstood requirement is the ICAO mandate for automated 406-MHz ELTs on aircraft flying on extended international operations starting on January 1. Foremost, the rule applies to both private and commercial airplane operations.
The operational requirement is spelled out in ICAO Annex 6 and the technical ELT requirements are detailed in Annex 10. Specifically, the rule requires at least one automatic 406-MHz ELT on single- or multi-engine private aircraft (two on commercial aircraft) flying on “long-range over-water operations” and flights “over designated land areas.” The definitions of these two terms are the basis for the requirement.
“Long-range over-water operations” are defined by ICAO as being away from “land suitable for making an emergency landing at a distance of more than 100 nautical miles in the case of a single-engine airplane and more than 200 nautical miles in the case of a multi-engine airplane capable of continuing flight with one engine inoperative.” Designated land areas are those that “have been designated by the state concerned as areas in which search-and-rescue would be especially difficult,” according to ICAO.
Attempting to get around installing a 406-MHz ELT requires “you to really dig into a country’s aeronautical information publications to figure out what, if any, geographic areas have been designated,” said an official of the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC). And here’s the Catch 22–the location could be one area now and another area years, months or even days later. Question the efficiency of having to wade through publications to see if the area you are planning to fly over is “designated” or not.
Therefore, as a practical and logical matter, international operators need to equip with the mandated 406-MHz ELT to ensure they are legal in the long run, as well as in the short term, said the IBAC official. Or, alternatively, flight plan all your trips to avoid such extended operations.
Despite a lack of publicity about the rule until recently, officials from both ICAO and IBAC are a little surprised by all the sudden fuss. They noted that the Jan. 1, 2005 deadline has been an ICAO requirement since Nov. 4, 1999.