With the Feb. 1, 2009 deadline approaching to replace 121.5-MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELT) with 409- MHz units, French firm ELTA is preparing to market a personal ELT that will meet the new mandate at about one fourth the cost of a unit installed in the aircraft.
Philip Male, head of worldwide ELT sales for ELTA, is at NBAA’07 with a mockup of the pocket-size battery-powered unit that will be TSO’d to FAA environmental standards and available next year. Responding to a survey of more than 300 pilots at this year’s EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh, Wis., ELTA has included a GPS engine in the beacon’s design that will allow searchers to pinpoint its location to within 100 meters, Male said.
Each Pilot Pocket ELT survival beacon will be serialized with a registry code identifying its owner on the NOAA Web site, so that when its signal is received by a search-and-rescue satellite, a verification process will begin. A mission control center will call a number provided by the beacon owner to ensure that the transmission is not a false alarm. When it is determined that a valid emergency exists, search-and-rescue (in the U.S., Civil Air Patrol) will be dispatched to the 12- to 15-sq-mi area designated by the satellite Doppler shift detection protocol.
The Pilot Pocket unit, which Male said is designed to retail for about $750, will be powered by owner-replaceable lithium batteries with a one-year design life. He expects the personal ELT to be marketed both through pilot shops and on the Internet. It will be manufactured in the U.S.
Male is at the Barfield booth (No. 4525) showing a mockup of the unit and explaining its operation. He said that market research indicates a large number of potential customers will avoid the expense of replacing the 121.5 MHz ELTs in their aircraft with a personal ELT.