The FAA Safety Team has issued a notice reminding aircraft operators that satellite monitoring of 121.5-MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) will end as of Feb. 1. As of that date, the International Cospas-Sarsat Organization will monitor only 406-MHz ELTs, which “transmit a much stronger signal, are more accurate, verifiable and traceable to the registered beacon owner,” according to the notice.
The FAA states that only about 15% of the registered aircraft in the U.S. currently fly with 406-MHz ELTs. Those equipped only with 121.5-MHz ELTs will be dependent on pilots of aircraft flying nearby, or ground stations able to monitor that frequency, to hear and report signals transmitted from a possible crash site, the FAA warned.
“When you fly, look out for your fellow pilots and when possible monitor 121.5 MHz. If a 121.5-MHz ELT is heard on guard, report to the nearest air traffic control tower,” the FAA notice advised, also reminding owners that 406-MHz ELTs must be registered. The search-and-rescue community is encouraging aircraft owners to install 406-MHz ELTs or carry a handheld 406-MHz personal locator beacon.
The FAA notice points out that, with only 12% to 15% of U.S.-registered flying with 406 MHz ELTs, “there is at least an 85% chance that an aircraft in an accident will only transmit a 121.5 MHz signal, thus remaining silent to the satellites.”
The Cospas-Sarsat System has been and will continue processing emergency signals transmitted by 406 MHz ELTs, the notice says. These 5 Watt digital beacons transmit a much stronger signal, are more accurate, verifiable and traceable to the registered beacon owner. Registration allows the search and rescue authorities to contact the beacon owner or designated alternate by telephone, to determine whether a real emergency exists.
“A simple telephone call often solves a 406 MHz alert without launching costly and limited search and rescue resources, which would have to be done for a 121.5 MHz alert. For these reasons, the search and rescue community is encouraging aircraft owners to consider retrofit of 406 MHz ELTs or at a minimum, consider the purchase of a handheld 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) which can be carried in the cockpit while continuing to maintain a fixed 121.5 MHz ELT mounted in the aircraft’s tail. Protect yourself and your passengers and Get the Fix – Switch to 406,” the notice advises.
For information: http://www.faasafety.gov/SPANS/notices_public.aspx?nid=1518&page=1
To register a beacon: https://beaconregistration.noaa.gov/rgdb/