FCC ELT Rule A Bad Joke?

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AVweb used to run an April Fool's edition that was popular but ultimately confusing. As Internet news evolved, our reputation as a trusted source of accurate information about GA conflicted with the devil-may-care attitude that governed some sites.

I only took part in one of the April 1 editions and it was a challenge coming up with stories that had a ring of truth but were obviously bogus. One aviation site continues to do this but it's become tedious.

Well, it's a long way from April 1 and the FCC handed us a masterpiece of contradictory and ridiculous proposed rulemaking that would have rated the lead story in our more playful era. The Federal Communications Commission says it's going to outlaw the use of 121.5 ELTs by August.

Huh?

Does that mean that if you don't crash and set off your FAA-legal 121.5 ELT you're OK: nobody is going to snip your rabbit ears?

This is such rich territory for an editorial piece that restraint is in order or we'll be here all day.

There was no consultation and it simply cannot happen in time to keep everyone legal. It would probably take two years just to supply the 300,000 or more 406 ELTs the FCC says should replace the 121.5s. And what about the 406s that also do 121.5?

The relative merits of such a simplistic approach to using available technology to find crashed airplanes also must wait for another blog.

In this case, there are only two possible scenarios.

  1. This is the epitomy of dumb-ass lack of communication between government departments who actually have a lot in common and should know better. In that case, this should be fixed up very soon.
  2. Or, if the experience of the U.S.'s neighbor to the north is any reference, this might have been planned all along.

Transport Canada recently mandated 406 ELTs for all aircraft flying in Canada (including foreign-registered aircraft). It happened after about 10 years of intense public discussion between industry stakeholders, the government and the military, which does search and rescue in Canada.

Kevin Psutka, president of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, claims the Canadian Forces essentially demanded 406 compliance from the government and he thinks the same kind of effort resulted in the FCC announcement. He just thinks the military was smarter in the U.S. and did an end run around the FAA, which didn't seem very interested in forcing airplane owners to spend considerable money to "upgrade" to a system that doesn't really work any better at finding crashed airplanes than the 121.5-based system (ELTS are notoriously unreliable).

Granted, the lack of satellite coverage for the 121.5 alerts. which was cut off in 2009, makes 121.5 even less effective but Psutka says that's a matter of convenience for the military in Canada and the Coast Guard in the U.S. Because 406 ELTs send out the name and phone number of the registered owner, dispatches to false alarms are theoretically reduced.

False alarms are an expensive problem and need to be addressed but simply trading one unreliable system for another unreliable system that can theoretically provide slightly more accurate information doesn't make any sense when most of us already have a device in our cars or shirt pocket that can do so much more.

There are much better ways to track airplanes available off the shelf today and forcing aircraft owners to comply with ancient technology that doesn't work very well (ELTS frequently fail because they're destroyed on impact, their antennae are wrecked or obscured, or the crash fails to generate the forces necessary for activation) is at best counter productive.

In the FCC's proposal, it's patently stupid.

Psutka also notes that in the Canadian experience, it was military involvement without the benefit of public input that created the rule there. He wonders, with the benefit of experience, if the same thing is happening in the U.S. and points to countries where the military runs the airspace.

There's not generally much room for GA in those countries.

Comments (81)

Russ, I actually did have to check the calendar to make sure it wasn't April 1.

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | June 22, 2010 8:45 AM    Report this comment

and how, pray tell, will the FCC enforce this ban? Will they invest in on-airport monitoring equipment to catch IA's testing ELTs (generally for a few seconds ) for annual inspections?

If, OTOH, the airplane crashes, I think most of us will take our chances on getting an FCC nastygram.

The only way for FCC to make this mean anything would be to get the FAA on board, issue an AD, and make it impossible to annual the airplane with the older equipment.

- Jerry Kaidor

Posted by: Jerome Kaidor | June 22, 2010 10:24 AM    Report this comment

I'd like to see some facts concerning how often ELT's actually contribute positively to SAR, and in what areas it would be the most beneficial. Personally I think non-commercial aircraft should have the option but not the requirement. If I should crash within 50nm of my home there is probably a 50-50 chance that someone would actually film it on their cell phone. If I plan to cross wilderness areas, I might use a PLB or (gasp) a VFR flight plan to help stack the deck in favor of being found. This all seems bizarre, considering I could drive my car off the interstate into fourteen feet of kudzu and never be discovered; a more likely fate than crashing in a remote location without a trace. -Glenn

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | June 22, 2010 12:51 PM    Report this comment

Never mind the fact that there is still monitoring of 121.5 Mhz. FDC NOTAM 4/4386 clearly requires that all aircraft (if able) monitor either 121.5 or 243.0. Since it's not possible to monitor 406, the loss of 121.5 punches a major hole in the detection network.

This problem won't be solved by relying on AOPA, EAA and the like to "go to war".

Please pick up the phone and call 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).

You can also email the FCC Commissioners directly using the email addresses at http://www.fcc.gov/contacts.html.

Posted by: Robert Montgomery | June 22, 2010 1:39 PM    Report this comment

On effectiveness, if your ELT actually activates, is not burned up in a post crash fire, and your ELT antenna isn't destroyed, you have a reasonable chance of being found. Airliners still monitor and report ELTs heard on 121.5, and the civil air patrol gets plenty of practice chasing down false alarms.

Posted by: Guy Hutchison | June 22, 2010 3:35 PM    Report this comment

"This problem won't be solved by relying on AOPA, EAA and the like to "go to war"." Totally agree.

For that reason we will not renew our support (membership) in the alphabets do nothing agenda. They seem to have become increasingly flaccid bath house girlie men.

Posted by: David Spencer | June 22, 2010 3:39 PM    Report this comment

David - that sounds awful harsh and I don't think you're too well informed on the roles the alphabet groups are taking. They did go to war over user fees, and are engaging on the fuel issue now. This ELT thing just happened a couple of days ago and actions are being taken in ways that you as an individual simply cannot do. That being said, I can't see where it hurts to flood the FCC with tons of complaints about this short-sighted, ignorant, expensive rule. I fully expect the 406 elt mandate to be pushed back to a more reasonable timeframe, but I'm willing to bet we'll be switching in 12-18 months. Of course, there is the chance that the FAA will remove the requirement to carry an ELT. I think this has been proposed in the past.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 22, 2010 4:12 PM    Report this comment

OK. I made a few phone calls, spoke with an intelligent guy over at the FCC (who is drowing in phone calls... go get 'em). There appears to be a bigger story that's not quite as scary as feared.

1. The new regulation won't go into effect until 60 days after it's published in the Federal Register. It hasn't been published yet, and my new friend seemed to indication that publication was months, if not years away.

2. There was an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) Comment Period. Alas, the alphabets (along with the rest of us) missed it. I talked to an AOPA rep who indicated that they were surprised by this, but they shouldn't have been.

3. There was some discussion with the FAA on the issue. Needless to say, the FCC was surprised by the violent reaction from the parts of the FAA that they didn't speak to.

4. It was reported that the intent of the regulation was to ban 121.5 Mhz ONLY ELTs. (No, I don't see that either.)

The long and the short is that the FCC clearly didn't understand the issue, and was surprised by the abject failure of the NPRM process. If we keep the pressure up, it seems likely that something good will come of it.

Posted by: Robert Montgomery | June 22, 2010 4:35 PM    Report this comment

Notwithstanding Robert clearing up a few issues, this just adds further proof to my ongoing philosophy of policy makers in general, and especially aviation: "No intelligent decision ever came from a swivel chair." Or, "Desk monkeys are....(possibly considered offensive)." Somebody at a desk doesn't talk to the actual people affected by the policy he/she is about to create and assumes all is well... Out goes the announcement. And the stuff hits the fan. The sad thing is, said person becomes so stubborn that said policy is almost impossible to reverse.

Posted by: Peter Buckley | June 22, 2010 6:22 PM    Report this comment

Amend 91.207 to allow aircraft used under part 91 operated by the owner to have the 'option' to install an ELT, and amend it to allow 'portable' ELT of the 406 variety. I am sure that if a reasonably priced 406 ELT was produced (like a portable gps or transceiver) they would be purchased.

Posted by: Robert Grinch | June 23, 2010 6:38 AM    Report this comment

Personally, I don't care one way or another. The ELT didn't help Steve Fausset. At best, it is ineffective. If GA pilots choose to buy one, let them. It should be voluntary! When you carry passengers for hire, I know that the rules change, this is OK, but, for the rest of us leave it to the pilots to decide. Jerome LaForest

Posted by: Jerome LaForest | June 23, 2010 6:46 AM    Report this comment

Aviators, friends, if we look closely at the ruling, this prevents the sale of the older 121.5 ELT's. It does not prevent aircraft who still have the 121.5 ELT from using the NAS. This will prevent manufacturers from buying old stock that no longer complies with satellite monitoring. If an aircraft were to have an incident, the 121.5 beacon can still be tracked by direction finding (DF) equipment (civil air patrol, ground based DF equipment. overall, it make no sense to call for help, if no one can hear you. Fly Safe!

Posted by: Michael Troici | June 23, 2010 7:01 AM    Report this comment

There have been more success with with 122.5 than no ELT at all. Some is better than nothing.

Posted by: Robert Haas | June 23, 2010 7:46 AM    Report this comment

Michael, the wording “to prohibit certification, manufacture, importation, sale, or continued use of 121.5 MHz ELTs.” implies that the entire GA population will need to swap out their ELTs. It would be much more reasonable and more feasible if the 'or continued use' stipulation was cut out as you interpret the rule -Folks will be able to deal with that, but if everybody has to replace what they have then the ruling agency, in this case the FCC, needs to pay for it. Sounds a bit like the fuel conundrum - looks like we're all going to need new engines and now new ELTs, the next thing will probably be a mode-C/ADS-B transponder mandate, oh sod it why don't we all just buy new airplanes? :(

Posted by: Peter Sharpe | June 23, 2010 8:28 AM    Report this comment

Banning the sale of 121.5 ELT is completely reasonable. There is a reasonably priced 406 ELT available. Its certified in Canada and Europe. The FAA hasn't approved it and has been screwing the company concerned around for several years. The motivation is not apparent. There are flight tracking devices around. Think FindMe Spot for instance.Personally I don't see the difficulty in having a 406 ELT on board. If I'm having a problem, all help is gratefully accepted. 121.5 doesn't work. The monitoring is patchy and the transmission power is too low to be more than marginally effective.

Posted by: david wilder | June 23, 2010 8:33 AM    Report this comment

David Wilder - I completely agree that 121.5 is for the most part useless. I don't think anyone would say that 406 isn't better - hence the reason I purchased a 406 PLB. The problem is the time for equippage - it needs to be a multi-year phase-in as opposed to 60 days, and we need to get the price of these things below $500 in my opinion.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 23, 2010 8:38 AM    Report this comment

If the deadline is extended to something like two years, this could be a good thing. Production of sufficient 406 units to supply the entire fleet, should bring the price down considerably. Without a requirement, few in the US are going to buy the new units, and production will be too low to bring the price down.

There also needs to be consideration of compensation for Manufacturers and Retailers stuck with 121.5 units made unsaleable by this unforeseen measure.

Posted by: Brian Hope | June 23, 2010 8:39 AM    Report this comment

How about this one - Remove the ELT and fly for 90 days, put it in/take it out and fly for another 90 days. I can do that all the rest of my life with 4 -5, thats right 4-5 entries in my logs each year. I'll even give those entries away to everybody I know. The ruling that some dimwit within the rice paper thin walls of some graffiti marked up cubicle of the FCC from whom knows where (and you know they are not even FCC licensed) is not legally in sync with Federal laws as we all know that 406Mhz ELT's also transmit 121.5 which facets those transmitters as well to be illegal. Sooooo, what we have here is not only GA but Part 91, 135, 121, all experimental, all AIRCRAFT period , not just airplanes only. This also includes NASA & all MILITARY aircraft as well would be rendered grounded and illegal by FEDERAL LAW to use those frequencies for emergency use. Sounds like we have a terrorist mole within our Government and our agency's are asleep at the wheel again.

Posted by: Joeseph Gawlikowski: JoesPiper | June 23, 2010 8:54 AM    Report this comment

The real workaround is just to turn your ELT off. Legal per the FAA (they don't say it has to be on 'auto') and legal per FCC. BUT that sure defeats the purpose.

Posted by: Stephen Samuelian | June 23, 2010 9:31 AM    Report this comment

@Josh -- disagree that ELTs are useless, and further more David didn't say they were useless, but that 406s were a reasonable alternative. The transmit power is sufficient for the device to be heard from aircraft for hundreds of miles.

If you survived a crash, your ELT probably did too, and you're many times more likely to be found by DFing an ELT than an eyeball search.

Posted by: Guy Hutchison | June 23, 2010 9:41 AM    Report this comment

That's correct. The regs state than an operable ELT must be on-board, no statement to the affect to be on or armed. The intended meaning was to able to be activated upon use if necessary (TSO)that is in legal terms if necessary, and you are correct Stephen. A good portion of 121.5 owners do not have panel switches, so to turn it off would have to be performed before flight obviously. Also, the ELT antennae must not be inverted such as an upside down crash - renders the transmit so weak its useless. According to the rule, the word "USE" has everybody in a TIZZY! That renders all flyable aircraft civilian and military as well to be illegal as 406's transmit 121.5 also. Maybe its time I walked into town and started cleaning house of the ineptites within our regulatory authorities. Apparently the new college courses there teaching these for degrees eliminates intellect and common sense and only prepares you to be a suck up only :-). The proposed rule is very disturbing since the intent was to be short notice. The revisions are under way as we speak. Portable 406's won't work either as one would have to figure out how not to cushion it. The ELT's must be fixed to sustain a shock on the 'G" switch or was that spot :-) This action is similar to a teenager staying out way to late without notifying their parents - IRRESPONSIBLE.

Posted by: Joeseph Gawlikowski: JoesPiper | June 23, 2010 9:50 AM    Report this comment

I didn't say they were totally useless - but look at the activation rates, and false alarms, and they're pretty close. In the event of an accident, I'm betting more on my ability to activate my AeroFix PLB in my flight bag than my 121.5 elt going off (which leaves an interesting thought - the reason I bought the PLB is if over water and I have to ditch, I didn't think I could go to the tail and pull the ELT out - I wonder if the new installed 406elt's are detectable under water)

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 23, 2010 11:28 AM    Report this comment

Josh. If you get a 406 designed for marine use they will fit in your shirt pocket or in the shoulder pocket on your flight jacket -much higher chance of you getting to it and activating it after the plane goes down.

Posted by: david wilder | June 23, 2010 12:42 PM    Report this comment

My Aerofix is basically the aviation equivalent of the Aquafix marine unit (honestly I think it's the exact same unit with a different tag on it). It floats, is waterproof, has onboard GPS and I can carry it in my pocket or strapped to my wrist (which is where it's at if I'm "feet wet") I'm interested in whether or not the installed aircraft units are detectable if the aircraft is submerged - I'm guessing no - which means to be really protected you need a PLB and an installed 406 ELT. Also, if you crash on land and aircraft is on fire - I definitely want a PLB.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 23, 2010 2:41 PM    Report this comment

Actually, the more I think about this, I'm thinking the installed ELT's are good for body retrieval, but a PLB probably offers more protection - since it is with the pilot and not the aircraft. How about a reg that allows a registered PLB in lieu of an ELT? I guess if I'm too injured to activate a PLB - it doesn't look good for SAR to arrive in time to do anything for me anyhow.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 23, 2010 2:43 PM    Report this comment

There is a debate going on in the Canadian West coast float plane industry which is pretty large. The present regs don't provide for the ELT to be able to float free if the aircraft is submerged which has caused problems. The fix for non-float planes I guess would be very expensive. Perhaps a special rule if you are going more than gliding range offshore might be a help. Its the lifejacket and liferaft rule now. Without that I think the personal {LB is actually much more help.

Posted by: david wilder | June 23, 2010 3:05 PM    Report this comment

This is just another nail in the coffin of General Avaition. If they cannot get us out of the air with high fuel prices, user fees, unnessary ADs, military TSA appointees, and increasing airspace restrictions yhey wil do it with demanding more and more expensive toy requirements. the FAA needs to make the ELT/EPRB equippage OPTIONAL!

Posted by: Al Dyer | June 23, 2010 3:47 PM    Report this comment

The requirement for ELTs originaled when there was little if any effective surveillance. Today's and tomorrow's surveillance will provide good trajectpry information and better means of likely aircraft location than an ELT signal. That is why some States are no longer mandating carriage of an ELT if there is a good surveillance system in place.

Posted by: Michael Hunt | June 23, 2010 4:19 PM    Report this comment

I'm not so sure this isn't just anotherturf battle between government agencies. The absurdity of the time frame makes me think something else must be going on other than gross incompetence.

Posted by: Ric Lee | June 23, 2010 6:59 PM    Report this comment

Ric I suspect you are right. The FAA is under a great deal of criticism on the 100LL issue as well as the 406 issue let alone the screw up in the management of the last air traffic modernization prior to the announcement of ADS-B which is still pretty foggy. The other agencies pick their fights carefully and sense that FAA is vulnerable and are elbowing it aside. I don't envy the position of FAA senior management. It must be pretty ulcermaking these days.

Posted by: david wilder | June 23, 2010 9:46 PM    Report this comment

One MAJOR point not yet mentioned (that I saw posted) is that neither the Civil Air Patrol nor the US Coast Guard have direction finding equipment that operates on the 406 frequency (at least not enough to provide nationwide Search and Rescue coverage). They are, however, all still equipped for 121.5. That is why the initial 406's are dual mode transmitters (both 121.5 and 406). Remember, not all 406's provide lat/long information, nor are they required to.

Posted by: Charles Truthan | June 24, 2010 6:23 AM    Report this comment

The 406 satellite fix is pretty accurate., Charles.I agree a built in GPS is an improvement. Its also coded for the a/c numbers so there is no doubt who is transmitting. The personal devices aren't coded. -but its still pretty good. Remeber everyone. The ban is on sale so the 121.5 is defintely on the way out.

Posted by: david wilder | June 24, 2010 8:00 AM    Report this comment

The 406 satellite fix is pretty accurate., Charles.I agree a built in GPS is an improvement. Its also coded for the a/c numbers so there is no doubt who is transmitting. The personal devices aren't coded. -but its still pretty good. Remeber everyone. The ban is on sale so the 121.5 is defintely on the way out.

Posted by: david wilder | June 24, 2010 8:00 AM    Report this comment

The 406 satellite fix is pretty accurate., Charles.I agree a built in GPS is an improvement. Its also coded for the a/c numbers so there is no doubt who is transmitting. The personal devices aren't coded. -but its still pretty good. Remeber everyone. The ban is on sale so the 121.5 is defintely on the way out.

Posted by: david wilder | June 24, 2010 8:00 AM    Report this comment

The 406 satellite fix is pretty accurate., Charles.I agree a built in GPS is an improvement. Its also coded for the a/c numbers so there is no doubt who is transmitting. The personal devices aren't coded. -but its still pretty good. Remeber everyone. The ban is on sale so the 121.5 is defintely on the way out.

Posted by: david wilder | June 24, 2010 8:00 AM    Report this comment

The 406 satellite fix is pretty accurate., Charles.I agree a built in GPS is an improvement. Its also coded for the a/c numbers so there is no doubt who is transmitting. The personal devices aren't coded. -but its still pretty good. Remeber everyone. The ban is on sale so the 121.5 is defintely on the way out.

Posted by: david wilder | June 24, 2010 8:00 AM    Report this comment

My understanding was that even if the 406 devices provide your fix the ground teams are actually locating you using 121.5 tracking devices. So surely it makes sense to find out when the services, the CAP and the Coast Guard will ALL have 406 Mhz equipment only before mandating an end to 121.5 equipment. I think AVWEB should survey the DA a/c /pilot population and ask what SAR equipment is carried ie what number have 121.5 ELTs, what# have 406 ELTs , What# carry 406 PLBs and what # have SPOT or equivalent. Many pilots are renting a/c and are moving between a/c frequently. A PLB is tied to the pilot which gives SAR people much more chnace of having uptodate info about the pilot and thus his flight path, intentions, POB etc esp if no fltplan has been filed. The FAA and FCC should allow optional PLBs and allow the use but not sale of 121.5 ELTs for the next 2 years so a graceful transition can be made.

Posted by: David Ward | June 24, 2010 8:30 AM    Report this comment

You are not violating any FAR by carrying the 121.5 ELT, and there is an FCC rule that allows transmitting on ANY FREQUENCY, with or without an appropriate license, in an emergency. I think an airplane crash would qualify, thereby negating the "operate" portion of the rule (except for testing).

My guess is this rule will be fixed, we will have a period of months to years to change out our ELTs, and all will be well.

Posted by: Jack Burton | June 24, 2010 8:46 AM    Report this comment

David, my PLB ACR Aqualink is coded and registered as required by law (in the U.S)...it provides my contact information and an alternate in the event it is activated. I purchased the marine version to use in my airplane because it floats

Posted by: G. Brewer | June 24, 2010 9:11 AM    Report this comment

Josh Johnson (not trying to pick on you, just referencing your previous comments)... You are wrong about the "alphabet" groups and you are wrong about the usefulness of 121.5 ELTS and you are wrong about ELTs in general. Here's the letter I rec'd today from AOPA: "George, I understand your opinion that ELTs should be optional for the owner/operator of private aircraft. However, AOPA does support the 1973 congressional mandate which required ELTs after US Representative Hale Boggs crashed a plane in Alaska and was never found. ... Regards, Sarah DooleyAOPA Pilot Information Center800.872.2672 "

Even 406 ELTs have only a 81% successful activation rate, according to AOPA THEMSELVES!

NOW is the TIME for us ALL to press to REVOKE mandatory ELT installations. ALL ELTs should be OPTIONAL for private, GA aircraft.

Posted by: George Horn | June 24, 2010 9:45 AM    Report this comment

Let me add that NEX-GEN is another MISSED opportunity for FAA to resolve this issue. Consider this: If FAA is going to require us all to install Nex Gen equipt.... then WHY isn't the TSO for that equipt already incorporating ELT function? IF my little airplane is going to be visible regardless of it's altitude...then why won't the ATC software recognize my CRASH???

DOH!

Posted by: George Horn | June 24, 2010 9:48 AM    Report this comment

I can confirm that I have only seen 121.5 equip in CAP aircraft. CAP was just as surprised by this

Posted by: Shaun vanBergen | June 24, 2010 10:26 AM    Report this comment

George: The real deal! Next-gen is not about your or my safety. Next-gen is about serious profit making from you and the tax-payers. There is no benefit unless you have ADS-B IN and will be flying IFR. There is no debate on that statement - period. You are correct about the why question of ELT's and Next-gen. Unfortunately the FAA & the FCC could careless about you. At least there is a choice as far as what ELT you can install be it nonGPS or GPS capable. If you are experimental, nobody gives a rats rear end, but if you are Normal/Utility,Part 91, Part 135, or 121 then its a whole new ball game. Currently, there is and will not be any mandate in the near future for TSO C126 ELTs(406Mhz)See the link; copy & paste. http://www.aea.net/governmentaffairs/regulatoryupdates_item.asp?ID=43 This is the new update as far ELT's.

Posted by: Joeseph Gawlikowski: JoesPiper | June 24, 2010 10:53 AM    Report this comment

In Canada there is no difference between experimental and certified aircraft in regards to ELT. AS to choices, how about this? If you don't want to carry 406 then SAR will not search for you. Its your choice. But its not fair that you activate SAR when you don't have equipment that can drastically reduce the cost of SAR and increase the probablity of success. Its like wearing motorcycle helmets. If your not looking to medicare or whatever the new equivalent will be called, then choose on your medical costs. If you are covered by taxpayer money in whole or in part, then safety equipment to sharply reduce your medical cost is a reasonable tradeoff. As to ADSB-IN I suspect the reason its not mandated for GA is that the protection is for commercial carriers and is optional for GA. Note that universal ADS-B will sharply reduce the cost of ATC On the main topic, the key is pressure FAA to move quickly to certify the 406s that are already certified elsewhere and stop foot dragging on new ones. That way the competition will increase and the costs will come dow. $500 isn't much in the scheme of things. The next cost reduction would be to hurry up on the alternate to 100LL that GAMI is sponsoring so that we can use a reasonable alternative to 100LL before the EPA closes down GA altogether. This is NOT a paranoid concern. The reality is very quickly approaching.

Posted by: david wilder | June 24, 2010 12:31 PM    Report this comment

In Canada there is no difference between experimental and certified aircraft in regards to ELT. AS to choices, how about this? If you don't want to carry 406 then SAR will not search for you. Its your choice. But its not fair that you activate SAR when you don't have equipment that can drastically reduce the cost of SAR and increase the probablity of success. Its like wearing motorcycle helmets. If your not looking to medicare or whatever the new equivalent will be called, then choose on your medical costs. If you are covered by taxpayer money in whole or in part, then safety equipment to sharply reduce your medical cost is a reasonable tradeoff. As to ADSB-IN I suspect the reason its not mandated for GA is that the protection is for commercial carriers and is optional for GA. Note that universal ADS-B will sharply reduce the cost of ATC On the main topic, the key is pressure FAA to move quickly to certify the 406s that are already certified elsewhere and stop foot dragging on new ones. That way the competition will increase and the costs will come dow. $500 isn't much in the scheme of things. The next cost reduction would be to hurry up on the alternate to 100LL that GAMI is sponsoring so that we can use a reasonable alternative to 100LL before the EPA closes down GA altogether. This is NOT a paranoid concern. The reality is very quickly approaching.

Posted by: david wilder | June 24, 2010 12:31 PM    Report this comment

"...equipment that can drastically reduce the cost of SAR and increase the probablity of success..." Two days since I asked, and nobody has put forth any quantitative data that 406's, or ELT's in general, actually have demonstrated success in reducing SAR cost and increasing success. Anybody? "Pretty accurate" isn't the kind of data I'm looking for. -Glenn

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | June 24, 2010 2:00 PM    Report this comment

I am starting to feel overregulated. I don't think I like the feeling. It stresses me out. It raises my blood pressure. Maybe I should not fly now. Or ever again? What a hassle this all has become.

Posted by: Michael Schupp | June 24, 2010 8:07 PM    Report this comment

I am starting to feel overregulated. I don't think I like the feeling. It stresses me out. It raises my blood pressure. Maybe I should not fly now. Or ever again? What a hassle this all has become.

Posted by: Michael Schupp | June 24, 2010 8:08 PM    Report this comment

George - I don't think I'm wrong on any of these issues but you've got a right to your opinion as well. As for ELT's, I think they should be optional too, but good luck with that!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 24, 2010 9:55 PM    Report this comment

A few data points: The law requires a comment period before bureaucrats can issue rules with the force of law. If there was no comment period, or someone can prove it was inadequate, that should void the whole thing. Then you can make your comments all over again to them.

AFRCC runs inland SAR. Here's a link to their operation and how hey handle satellite and aircrew reports of ELTs: http://www.1af.acc.af.mil/units/afrcc/ The important thing to take from this discussion is that they do not initiate a search based on ELT data until they have a position. That took hours for the 121.5 satellites with poor resolution, and can still take up to 90 minutes for the 406 birds. Add GPS position to the data stream your ELT transmits and the search starts immediately after a phone call or two.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 25, 2010 12:02 AM    Report this comment

A few data points: The law requires a comment period before bureaucrats can issue rules with the force of law. If there was no comment period, or someone can prove it was inadequate, that should void the whole thing. Then you can make your comments all over again to them.

AFRCC runs inland SAR. Here's a link to their operation and how hey handle satellite and aircrew reports of ELTs: http://www.1af.acc.af.mil/units/afrcc/ The important thing to take from this discussion is that they do not initiate a search based on ELT data until they have a position. That took hours for the 121.5 satellites with poor resolution, and can still take up to 90 minutes for the 406 birds. Add GPS position to the data stream your ELT transmits and the search starts immediately after a phone call or two.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 25, 2010 12:03 AM    Report this comment

A few data points: The law requires a comment period before bureaucrats can issue rules with the force of law. If there was no comment period, or someone can prove it was inadequate, that should void the whole thing. Then you can make your comments all over again to them.

AFRCC runs inland SAR. Here's a link to their operation and how hey handle satellite and aircrew reports of ELTs: http://www.1af.acc.af.mil/units/afrcc/ The important thing to take from this discussion is that they do not initiate a search based on ELT data until they have a position. That took hours for the 121.5 satellites with poor resolution, and can still take up to 90 minutes for the 406 birds. Add GPS position to the data stream your ELT transmits and the search starts immediately after a phone call or two.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 25, 2010 12:04 AM    Report this comment

A few data points: The law requires a comment period before bureaucrats can issue rules with the force of law. If there was no comment period, or someone can prove it was inadequate, that should void the whole thing. Then you can make your comments all over again to them.

AFRCC runs inland SAR. Here's a link to their operation and how they handle satellite and aircrew reports of ELTs: http://www.1af.acc.af.mil/units/afrcc/ The important thing to take from this discussion is that they do not initiate a search based on ELT data until they have a position. That took hours for the 121.5 satellites with poor resolution, and can still take up to 90 minutes for the 406 birds. Add GPS position to the data stream your ELT transmits and the search starts immediately after a phone call or two.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 25, 2010 12:46 AM    Report this comment

CAP is buying 55 new Cessnas a year, and at least the C182s all leave the factory with Becker 517 trackers installed. In addition, when money allows they replaced the older DF gear with the B-517 in older aircraft. Sadly, Becker has a monopoly on the SAR-DF business, and their product is not the most wonderful. Google 'Becker 517' to see what the box should do and the struggles CAP units have had understanding the box and what it really does. There's a lot of confusion in CAP. The Becker can track on 406.025, 243 and 121.5. Butt . . . The 406 ELT transmits a coded burst of data every 50 seconds, so the Becker has to store those bursts in order to draw a line of bearing to the target. The Becker is crudely designed, easy to screw up and confusing to use. But when it works, wow - like shooting fish in a barrel. Another shortcoming, not of the becker but of how the 406 detection and reporting system works, is that they cannot train on the 406 freq. There are no training ELTs to train against, so a real search is the only time crews can 'train' on the burst signal so in essence CAP spent $15k a pop for a glorified 121.5 user hostile DF box. Perhaps the thinking was "AFRCC will give the SAR coordinator the Lat/Long as reported by the satellite and the crew can fly/drive to that point, then use the Becker or any old 121.5 tracker to refine the search from there." Unfortunately that statement is fraught with a myriad of ways to screw up.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 25, 2010 12:47 AM    Report this comment

How many 406 ELTs result in a found aircraft and saved lives? Here's a link to AFRCC's annual report: http://www.1af.acc.af.mil/shared/media/document/afd-100408-038.pdf

I've flown searches on aircraft where the ELT was thrown from the aircraft severing the antenna cable. Based on a 1200 squawk/track analysis from center that ended at a mountain peak we flew to that last known position and "heard" an ELT. We were using a KX155 tuned to 121.5 with the squelch pulled out - the old timer's DF box of choice. The ELT was still transmitting a week after the aircraft went missing, but lacking the antenna the satellites didn't 'see' it. But it wasn't the ELT that found the wreck. It was that data trail.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 25, 2010 12:49 AM    Report this comment

Which brings up another point: Your transponder is your friend in an emergency. Dialing 7700 sets off bells in the center and RAPCON. If you even think you have an emergency dial it in, that way we'll have a data trail to follow to the point of impact if there is radar coverage. VFR flight following does almost the same thing but it helps to say Mayday in order to draw a crowd. An added bonus is that if the aircraft ends up inverted the Transponder antenna is in a perfect position to transmit to TCAS equipped aircraft and any other radar than can detect it. I've had alternators die and pressed on nordo, communicating with Center etc by listening on the radio and replying with the transponder codes and ident button as the battery voltage sagged below 10V and nothing else in the panel worked any more, so IMHO, that is a better ELT than the ELT. Even more important: That data is recorded for later playback and analysis, and most radars are programmed to do something exciting to wake the controller when they get 7700. Most will flash an arrow at the aircraft's position and set off an alarm, which is way better than an ELT. I wonder if ADSB could do something similar?

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 25, 2010 12:50 AM    Report this comment

As the owner of an Aeronca Chief with no electrical system, I am starting to worry about my kind of airplane being excluded from US airspace. I have seen nothing in the ADS-B etc. programs to indicate any thought given to the older aircraft, thousands of which are still in use by sport flyers. With a good portable radio and battery-powered GPS, I have all I need for legal low-and-low fun. At the low end of the aviation food chain, mandating equipment in the $500+ range that benefits only airliners and ATC starts to engender thoughts of selling and getting another sports car.

Posted by: Hunter Heath | June 25, 2010 11:28 AM    Report this comment

Hunter: That is exactly what certain groups want you to do. They want the NAS from the ground up to themselves. Say hell-no! ADS-B is only for Bravo & Charlie airspace and above 10K MSL for the most part. My beef about that is the Mode C veil. AS far as ELT's, I love reading mandates that state one cannot have it, but another can because it is a piece of jewelry (watches). Pretty much tells ya its not about safety, but big bucks and profits. If you buy a turbine powered glider, you are exempt from it all, check the regs :-)

Posted by: Joeseph Gawlikowski: JoesPiper | June 25, 2010 11:52 AM    Report this comment

I work at a Repair Station that has an avionics shop, they do the 43.207(d) check on the 406's, it costs several hundred dollars each time, I asked why so much?, the machine to do the check was very expensive, then it has to be recalibrated each year at $2500/cal. more expense being put on GA, greg

Posted by: greg doe | June 26, 2010 9:35 PM    Report this comment

Hopefully when and if everybody equips, the cost of the 43.207(d) check will go down, because * There will be more checks being done, hence the calibration cost of the tester will be spread out * The calibration cost of the tester will go down, because THEIR costs will be more spread out. * Alternate vendors of calibration equipment may appear.

The high current costs are typical for early adoption of a technology.

Posted by: Jerome Kaidor | June 27, 2010 8:21 AM    Report this comment

Bill O'Brien once said that rules can be changed, anyone know how to go about changing 91.207(f), or who is now doing Bill's old job?, greg

Posted by: greg doe | June 27, 2010 12:51 PM    Report this comment

What reg are you referring to on the ELT check? There is no 14 CFR 43.207(d). What chapter is it in and how often is it required?

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 27, 2010 8:20 PM    Report this comment

I have a question. When have you ever seen anything in aviation ever go Down in price. It always starts at a point and goes UP. When was the last time you had a VFR/IFR xponder/encoder/static system check? I have never had one go down in price.

Posted by: Al Dyer | June 27, 2010 8:30 PM    Report this comment

I missed, it is 91.207(f) under ELT's, (d) states "within 12 calendar months since the last inspection.

Posted by: greg doe | June 27, 2010 9:08 PM    Report this comment

Good point Al, the only way I found to lower the price, was find someone else to do the job, but often "I get what I pay for"

Posted by: greg doe | June 27, 2010 9:13 PM    Report this comment

The thread is starting to wander a bit, but here's one more comment on the costs of aviation. As alluded to in an earlier posting, the biggest challenge we have in aviation is the limited number of participants and buyers. If the makers of, say, J-3 Cub-like LSAs could amortize their costs over even 10,000 airplanes a year rather than maybe 100, the product could be as cheap as a Toyota Corolla. Think how cheap a decent auto GPS is vs. one designed for aviation-- how many millions of auto GPSs are sold for each aviation instrument? Lesson: SELL AVIATION AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY! Your friends and colleagues may weary of your enthusiasm (mine have!), but if you want apples, you gotta plant seeds.

Posted by: Hunter Heath | June 28, 2010 1:11 PM    Report this comment

Greg Doe: Are you in Canada perchance? Two years ago I read thru the ICA (free at the mfr's web sites) for several units and the US requirement for the 406 elts I reviewed were the same as for the 121.5 ELT. In Canada however, the requirements are stringent to the point of ridiculous, verifying signal strength, frequency stability on all three freqs and data transmission accuracy. The testing also depletes the computer-chip monitored lithium battery so it has to be replaced too and some are in the $300+ range, so it's easy to run the bill up pretty fast in Canada eh? That's not to say those requirements won't be imposed on the US market some day, but when I read the data it was no more onerous than now.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 28, 2010 2:19 PM    Report this comment

Then how come I can get an ELT approved in Canada and Europe for just over 500 when the cheapest US is over 1,000 and the US manufacturer making the device can't get the FAA to approve? Lobbying possibly? Just asking

Posted by: david wilder | June 28, 2010 2:37 PM    Report this comment

David Wilder

I don't understand your post. Are you referring to approval of customer installation or PMA?

Oh, wait . . .

Are you with ACK? If so I feel your pain and want you to know I've been following the ACK tale of certification whoa hoping for an early resolution so I can buy the E-04. http://www.ackavionics.com/406%20Page.html

The bureaucratic foot dragging does indeed seem to favor others over ACK.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 28, 2010 3:32 PM    Report this comment

Hi Tom, no I am in ATL, I don't do avionics, I am an A&P, but when a plane comes in with a 406, I take it out, make a work-order and take it to avionics, they have shown me the machine it is checked on, and I've watched them, just a bunch of hok-us-pok-us to me :), greg.

Posted by: greg doe | June 28, 2010 9:14 PM    Report this comment

Greg Doe

Do you remove all brands of 406 elts for this bench test or specific makes? I wonder what basis they are using to justify the bench test in the USA? That would be worth knowing.

I've seen some shops insist they remove the Altimeter and bench test it before doing an altimeter/transponder correlation check, others not, and after checking I found there was no regulatory basis for it. Just profitable I assume.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 28, 2010 11:19 PM    Report this comment

Hi Tom, I do Cessna, Beechcraft, Cirrus, Money and CubCrafters and all of the 406s go to Avionics, it seems like there are 2 different brands, just took one out this afternoon from a Cirrus at annual, I am pretty sure all the brands have to go onto the machine to be checked, I'll check with avionics Monday, I am off the next 3 days and ask them if there are any that can be checked like the C91a types, greg

Posted by: greg doe | June 29, 2010 5:56 PM    Report this comment

Greg Doe Thanks for the response. The right question to ask is: Where can we find the requirement and the specs they are testing to? I spent some time on the Kannad web site reading the installation and ops manuals there and it is confusing because they indeed require signal strength and other tests but reference Canadian regs, so I might be looking in the wrong manuals.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 29, 2010 7:11 PM    Report this comment

Kannad is Canadian certified. The ACK is also Canadian certified and is half the price.

Posted by: david wilder | June 29, 2010 8:59 PM    Report this comment

David Wilder

Isn't the kannad also US certified?

Can we buy an ACK thru a canadian supplier and install it in a US registered aircraft?

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 29, 2010 9:04 PM    Report this comment

I believe it is US certified, but am not sure. There are Canadian suppliers which you can find on the web.I'm not sure they will ship to the U.S. You'll have to check with them

Posted by: david wilder | June 29, 2010 9:10 PM    Report this comment

This is more proof of why we probably need to fire all government employees and start over. Immediately rehire the competent and blacklist the incompetent. This spawns from the same flawed self-righteous reasoning that has grown TFRs in volume and time because they are "oh so important". Bleh.

Posted by: Richard Terrill | July 3, 2010 12:46 AM    Report this comment

Aircraft Spruce sells the Kannad and says it's certified. The Kannad, like all the other offerings, operates on both 406 and 121.5 MHz. The 121.5 MHz makes it illegal under the FCC Order. What a cluster.

Posted by: Robert Hadow | July 8, 2010 9:15 AM    Report this comment

Well, I have started an Annual/Condition Inspection on a CubCrafters Carbon Cub SS, and looking at the Maintenance Manual Inspection Form under Cabin, item 7, ELT - check installation and condition of battery and antenna. Now that's a little more like it, but wait, how do I check the conditon of the battery?? Looks like I am headed back to the avionics deparment again, Greg

Posted by: greg doe | July 17, 2010 8:46 PM    Report this comment

I am the former commander of the Air Force Coordination Center (AFRCC) and I now work for ACR Electronics. As mentioned, the price for bench testers is high and you can't test the 406 MHz ELT at the top of the hour like the 121.5 without getting a call from the AFRCC. When I left active duty, a small group of us got together and came up with a testing site that allows you test the 406 ELT like you did with the 121.5 called 406Link.com. We recently launched a new website called 406Test.com which satisfies the requirement for initial and annual testing of the ELT. Plus, it doesn’t require any expensive ELT testing equipment. If you want to make sure the 406 MHz ELT is installed correctly and the ELT is transmitting to the satellites use www.405Test.com service. You receive a confirmation SMS text message when you perform a self test of an installed 406 ELT, seconds after you perform the test. By using the service you know (1) that the beacon is transmitting with enough power, (2) the antenna is working and properly installed and (3) the satellites have picked up the signal. If you have any question please contact me. Also, I apologize to all of you who don't like manufacturers injecting themselves into the threads but I think we have come up with something that can help solve some of the problems listed on this thread.

Posted by: Scott Morgan | September 16, 2010 8:03 AM    Report this comment

Correction to my post, the site is www.406Test.com.

Posted by: Scott Morgan | September 16, 2010 8:46 AM    Report this comment

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