Most pilots by now have heard about the plan to end satellite monitoring of emergency locator transmitter (ELT) distress signals broadcast over 121.5- and 243-MHz frequencies after Feb. 1, 2009. But many might not realize there is no specific regulation in the U.S. requiring ELT upgrades to the new 406-MHz standard being adopted in much of the rest of the world.
Aircraft emergency frequency
Many operators are installing 406-MHz emergency locator transmitters in place of the 121.5-MHz units as the January 1 deadline approaches on a new regulation (FAR 91.207) that requires all U.S.-registered jets with maximum payloads of less than 18,000 pounds–virtually all business jets except business jetliners–to be equipped with an ELT.
New 406-MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELT) from Emergency Beacon Corp. are at the New Rochelle, N.Y. company’s booth (No. 4074). Anticipating the February 2009 switch of search-and-rescue signal processing from 121.5 MHz to 406 MHz, Emergency Beacon is offering ELTs for both cabin/cockpit and aircraft tail installation.
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.
France’s Kannad (Booth No. 4541) is unveiling its new 406AF automatic fixed emergency locator transmitter (ELT) here at NBAA’07. The compact device has been developed as a cost-effective option for operators of smaller business aircraft, and the whole package is priced at less than $1,000.
406-MHz emergency locator transmitters must not be activated for testing during the first five minutes after any hour, unlike 121.5-MHz ELTs (see AIM revised paragraph 6-2-5). Since 406-MHz ELTs use a network of satellites, switching them on for even a brief test alerts search-and-rescue officials almost instantly.
Have you installed your 406-MHz emergency locator transmitter (ELT) yet? If trips to international destinations are in your plans, the sarsat units are must-have equipment after January 1.
Business jet operators knew three years ago that they would have to be equipped with approved ELTs by January 1 this year or be grounded until the installation was made. Many operators apparently didn’t take this notice seriously (maybe counting on the FAA to delay compliance, as it has a history of doing) and waited until the last minute to make arrangements for the installation. Or they simply forgot about it.
As reported last month in AIN, under FAA requirements civil jets must be equipped with ELTs starting this month. U.S. operators have been advised to consider installing 406-MHz units because satellite monitoring of 121.5-MHz units is scheduled to end in 2009.
Imagine that a malfunction on an aircraft forces the captain to make an emergency crash landing in the middle of an unforgiving landmass, such as Siberia, a thousand miles from anywhere. There are survivors, but in the frozen wastes of the north, with roads at a premium, there is little hope and not much time. Even the nearest hospital is completely out of reach.