A Covallis, Ore., man got more than he bargained for when his parents gave him a flat-screen Toshiba television. He knew the set came with a built-in VCR, DVD and CD player, but what he didn’t know was that the TV was sending out a signal identical to that of an Emergency Locator Transmitter.
The 121.5 MHz signal was picked up by an orbiting search-and-rescue satellite, which alerted the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. While 90% of these alerts are false alarms, each one is checked out.
Chris van Rossman found that out when members of the Air Force and local law enforcement showed up at his apartment. At first the officials couldn’t figure out where the signal was coming from since van Rossman didn’t have an ELT. Then one of them figured out that when van Rossman turned off the television to answer the door, the signal stopped.
The wannabe ELT was rendered in-op by unplugging it. Van Rossman was told he’d better leave the TV off or else he could be fined $10,000 for emitting a false distress signal.