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Canada Backs Off 406 ELTs

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Canada's Minister of Transport, John Baird, has overruled his bureaucracy and suspended implementation of a controversial rule that would have required almost all aircraft to have certified 406 Mhz emergency locator transmitters installed by February of 2011 in order to fly legally in Canada. The rule would have applied to aircraft trying to enter Canada from other countries. In an interview with AVweb at Canadian Aviation Expo in Hamilton, Ontario, earlier this week, Kevin Psutka, president of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA), said the minister refused to sign the rule as presented by Transport Canada because it didn't include any viable alternatives to 406 ELTs, even though it included language that indicated an alternative method of compliance was possible. "There is no technology that exists today that could meet those (alternative) requirements," Psutka said. He said the minister has ordered his staff to draft a rule that gives new technology a fighting chance for acceptance.

Psutka and COPA have been fighting the mandatory equipage with 406 ELTs for 10 years, arguing the new ELTs, while somewhat improved in the level and types of information they provide rescuers, suffer from the same operational flaws as the old-style 121.5 units. The vast majority of ELT signals are accidental and do not announce any kind of emergency. On the other hand, when a plane does go down, they fail to trigger more than half the time, according to COPA's research. Psutka was urging Transport Canada and the Canadian Forces (which handles search and rescue) to consider new GPS-based systems that leave a "bread crumb" trail of position reports for rescuers to follow but the rule, as written, excluded all of them, he said. TC's position was that 406 ELTs meet International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards that changed when the satellite constellation that monitors search and rescue alerts stopped receiving 121.5 signals. The U.S. did not adopt mandatory 406 equipage, but the military and Civil Air Patrol are recommending aircraft owners install the new ELTs.

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