First Responders: Be Careful With Your Old ELT

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Concerned that an exodus from old 121.5 MHz to new 406 MHz Emergency Locator Beacon (ELT) technology may translate into otherwise capable ELTs activating as they're tossed into dumpsters, AOPA and CAP have initiated a communications offensive. Feb. 1, 2009, marked the end of satellites' ability to notice your 121.5 MHz-specific ELT, while 406 MHz ELTs are satellite supported. Though responders still make efforts to monitor 121.5, 406 MHz is more widely supported and "switching to the new beacon is important," CAP said in a news release. It is similarly important that the people who would search for you and your downed aircraft aren't dispatched to spend their time digging through dumpsters and landfills to shut off improperly disposed of equipment. If you're changing out your ELT, properly disconnect the ELT from its battery or make sure that whoever does the work does so. Do not risk misusing search and rescue resources and personnel through improper removal or disposal of your old unit. The stories are already piling up.

AOPA shared one story of a California CAP squadron that searched through trash at a local recycling facility for six hours before finding an activated ELT that had nothing to do with a crashed aircraft. "Pilots can help save vital search and rescue resources," said AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs, Rob Hackman. Just properly dispose of your ELT.