FAA Reminds Us 121.5 ELTs Will Fade From Satellites

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The day after the NTSB issued a recommendation that the FAA require that all aircraft be equipped with 406 Mhz ELTs, the FAA issued a safety bulletin reminding pilots that as of Feb. 1, 2009, search and rescue satellites will no longer scan 121.5. However, the agency doesn't seem to be in a hurry to require that the much more accurate and less nuisance-prone 406 models be made mandatory. While this debate has been going on for some time, the pending loss of satellite detection has raised some interesting questions among those who use the signals to find people. The Civil Air Patrol's public forum has no shortage of opinions, including the fear that search and rescue officials will grow complacent about 121.5 signals because so many are false. The 121.5 ELTs that most of us have are notoriously inaccurate and prone to false alarms, according to the FAA. The safety bulletin says 98 percent of alarms are bogus. The 406 ELTs include information about the aircraft in which they are installed in their broadcast, making it much easier for rescuers to determine whether an alarm is genuine. The consensus on the CAP forum is that 121.5 calls will still be answered but there will be fewer of them because of the lack of satellite coverage on that frequency. The military 243 frequency will also drop off the satellites.