For the second time in three years the international requirements for ELT equipage are changing, but this time the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) promises that while the new rules will ensnare more airplanes than previous requirements, implementing them will be easier than before.
Weather satellites equipped to detect emergency locator transmitters helped rescue an estimated 1,500 sailors, hikers, downed pilots and others around the world last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Its satellites, along with Russia’s Cospas satellites, form an international search-and-rescue system. NOAA said the 171 U.S.
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.
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.
The royal air force of Oman has signed a $1.5 million contract with SARBE for new generation beacons to replace SARBE 6 beacons by the end of this year. The previous generation beacons will become obsolete on February 1, 2009, as analog transmissions will no longer be monitored by the COSPAS-SARSAT network. Beyond that date only 406MHz signals will be detected.
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.