WASHINGTON, D.C. — On June 15 the Federal Communications Commission issued a notice of proposed rulemaking prohibiting the certification, manufacture, importation, sale, or continued use of 121.5 MHz. Yet FAA regulations require the use of Emergency Locator Transmitters, most of which use 121.5 frequency.
An interesting dilemma for aircraft owners: Obey the proposal from the FCC and get a violation and possible fine from the FAA; obey the FAA and get a violation from the FCC; or spend hundreds of dollars on new equipment. The latter might be difficult. The FCC said its proposed rule would go into effect 90 days after being published in the Federal Register. This would not be enough time for manufacturers to produce ELTs for about 200,000 GA aircraft. Nor would there be enough mechanics to install them even if they could be made. What to do? What to do? Don’t panic.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) immediately put out a press release assuring the GA community it would go to work on the issue. The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) also went to work.
A call to the FAA immediately brought the response that the FAA was aware of the FCC notice and was looking into the problem, but at that early date did not have a definite answer.
A call to the FCC brought a series of recorded messages (press 1 for English, etc.). After pushing many numbers and getting nothing but recorded messages, I left a message on the FCC communications department recorder to please call back. First question to be asked: Why is the FCC discontinuing 121.5? There would be other questions. That message was left June 22. As of press time more than two weeks later, I’m still waiting to talk to someone at the FCC.
But communications or no, sources indicate the FCC will not issue the rule and is going through the maze of federal actions to withdraw the proposal.
Perhaps someday information will be available about why the FCC wanted to discontinue 121.5. For the time being, sources say the FCC didn’t know the importance of 121.5 to aviation before it issued the proposal. When ELTs were brought to the attention of FCC, their reaction could be guessed as “Oops, maybe as a communication agency we perhaps should communicate with other government agencies.”
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.