ELT switch could save your life

What’s more important to you: Money in your bank account or a search and rescue operation if you go missing in your airplane?

If your choice is for the search and rescue effort, you would be well-advised to switch your ELT from the old standby 121.5 to the newer 406 Mhz frequency.

Lt. Col. Bill Clarke, USAF Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC), explained during Sun ‘n Fun that the 121.5 satellite monitoring system has been shut down and that means the only monitoring on that frequency is done by other aircraft in the air. If they happen to pick up your signal, there’s the question of whether or not it gets reported promptly, he warned.

With the 406 beacons, there is constant satellite monitoring and reporting to the AFRCC, he said. When they get the beacon alert or you fail to close a flight plan, they coordinate efforts to start a search.

The 406 beacons are digital. That means it is directly related to you and your airplane and provides a great deal of information to search coordinators. Finally, the beacons allow the search area to be dramatically reduced over the old 121.5 units, meaning you have a better chance of being found quickly.

Unfortunately, most GA planes are still using the old beacons and the FAA has not mandated a switchover. One IA reported 95% of the planes he inspects still have the old units and few switch to the new ones since the cost, including installation, can be around $1,000.

It’s your choice: Money sitting in your bank account or a possible lifesaving search.

For more information: 1af.acc.af.mil/units/afrcc

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