Got ELT? Take Our ELT Survey


For a report on the 406 MHz ELT system, we’re seeking reader experiences and opinions on both the older 121.5 MHz devices and the newer 406 beacons. As you know, ELTs are required equipment, but that regulatory guidance doesn’t extend to the 406 MHz version. You can still use the older models, although the FCC prohibits new installations.False alarms are a major problem with 406 devices, constituting some 98 percent of all the activations. Have you had one? Either way, you can tell us what you think by clicking this link to the survey.

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  1. Many seemingly reasonable folks (like me?) would gladly participate in a survey until it states it wants my personal information and email in “case there are any questions”. That might be a way to make sure respondents are legitimate but it could also skew the results of the survey towards the less laissez-faire, more compliant personality types. Which in my experience aren’t as common with legacy aviators. It smacks as a way to build a database for future directed marketing.

    • The more laissez-faire, less compliant personality types could always perform the evasive manoeuvre known as “lying”. As Klaus points out, the form doesn’t punish you for remaining silent. But even if it did insist on something in the email field, you have the option of filling out “”. The survey gets only as much honesty as it earns and as you choose to give it.

    • Yes, they are.

      In 2018, there were 16,984 alerts. Of these, 7288 were known false alerts, 333 were distress alerts. Of those, 138 were ELTs. But ELTs were responsible for 10,116 alerts–by far the largest share. The survey shows 27 percent of 406 owners have had an unintended activation.

      • Did the absolute number of false alarms go down as compared to 121.5 units?

        Also, I don’t recall 406 units as being advertised as “eliminating” false alarms. They were supposed to “reduce” the number of false alarms.

        • No, they have gone up quite a bit. No one is quite sure why, but 406s are more complex technology and appear to have more faults.

          406s do result in more efficient and more successful searches, but the results are marginal. CAP has fairly dramatically switched to cellphone forensics for SAR. And now, ADS-B.

          My view is the requirement for ELTs can no longer be justified. Should be an owner choice, I think. It was never a program worth the expense of maintaining it.

          • “Cell Phone Forensics”? (Google, Google, Google)

            Wow, that’s pretty impressive. And it works for finding anyone with a cell phone (boaters, hikers), not just airplanes.

          • The one thing the ELTs provide is instant and automatic notification of a crash.

            More modern SAR methods (cell-phone diagnostics, ADS-B) are great ways to find a plane… *after* being notified that a plane needs to be found. Without an ELT hours will pass while waiting for a loved one to call the CAP because “I thought he’d be home by now” is quite the delay. I’m not aware of any other technology that provides instant crash notification.

    • As I understand it, one big difference between 121 and 406 units is how the false alarms are resolved. With the 121.5, all one could do is laboriously search for and track down the offending unit. But with a 406, the owner’s phone number (should be) registered so a quick phone call can resolve a false alarm. And it if that doesn’t work, the search area is much reduced due to the more accurate nature of 406 ELTs.

      Secondly, 406 units have a self-powered remote control panel that will let the pilot know that their ELT is beeping, even if they plane is off and no radio is tuned to 121.5. The older units would just start broadcasting without letting the pilot know.