Top Letters And Comments, August 21, 2020


It’s Time To Sunset The ELT Requirement

[…]Nobody is addressing the primary advantage of an ELT – *Automatic* notification of a crash.

PLBs, ADS-B, cell-phone, etc., all require some level of manual activation. None of them will automatically notify anyone that a crash has occurred. It’s somewhat like thinking “I’ll buckle my seat-belt *just* before I hit.” Or, it requires a loved one at home thinking, “hmm, it’s been hours, he should’ve been home by now…” before a search is launched. Way too long.

It sounds like the real problem with current ELTs is all in the means of sensing a crash. Fix THAT problem and then it becomes useful. All the rest (PLB, ADS-B, cell-phone) are just a means to quickly locate the crash, but none will initiate the search on their own. Only an ELT is designed to automatically start the search and rescue process.

Kirk W.

Probably because I grew up after ELTs were required, I never really thought much of them and just expected all GA aircraft to have one, much like someone who grew up during the smoking era just expected all cars to have ashtrays. But perhaps like the ashtrays, it is time to get rid of the ELT requirement. It’s a payphone in the days of cellphones.

Gary B.

I flew a CAP SAR mission last October that found a downed aircraft in the Mark Twain national forest in south central Missouri less than 5 hours after the accident and one hour after we launched, and the primary tool used was homing on the 406 MHz/121.5 MHz ELT signal. The aircraft was in dense woods, several miles from the nearest small town, and cell phone connectivity was probably nonexistent. The aircraft was invisible except from directly overhead, and also not visible from the nearest road that was only 115 yards away. The pilot was incapacitated, so triggering a PLB would probably not have occurred. Given the dense woods, the aircraft wasn’t visible from much more than 20-30 yards away, so a ground search that didn’t have precise coordinates to head to would have taken hours longer. Seeing the efficacy of the ELT convinced me to upgrade my 121.5 MHz ELT to a 406 MHz ELT. I’ve more recently done two 121.5 MHz ELT searches for ELTs that activated due to aged out batteries or installation errors, and you can expect hours of delay before the CAP is activated to go after one of those, since 121.5 is no longer satellite monitored.

Keith M.

Why Cheapskate Pilots Don’t Like 406 ELTs

FAA should change rules so that ELT is NOT required for aircraft equipped with 1090ES ADS-B. 1090ES ADS-B is tracked globally by satellites, by official ground stations, and by enormous number of private receivers (maybe as many as 100,000 of them). ADS-B track is 99.9999% reliable, ELTs fail most of the time.

For added safety, carry a PLB GPS with you. ADS-B track + PLB GPS = super high chance you are found, WAY higher than 406 ELT.

UAT ADS-B is not good enough. Lacks satellite coverage, most private receivers don’t pick it up, doesn’t work in much of the country (as described already in this comment thread). Yet another area where UAT should not have existed.

Current rule being satisfied by 121.5 ELT is just plain dumb. No sat monitoring, hard to find, no ID in message, hugely unreliable, hard to find.

Change the rule so that ADS-B 1090ES is enough, and I am even okay if you are required to have a PLB on board as a backup, which is far less cost and far more useful IMO.

Mike C.

I had to replace my old Narco 121.5 ELT several years ago after I managed to drop it on the hangar floor during a check of the battery expiration date. Not only did it not activate, it never worked again, and I had to spring for a new 406 unit. The 406 did come with a remote activation switch mounted on the panel, so I guess I could press the “panic” button before hitting the ground and hope it sent out a signal before it got smashed in the wreck. I also bought a PLB for “just in case”. It even floats in case I ended up in the water.

But, I have a problem with those too. The battery is nearing expiration, so I contacted the manufacturer to see about getting a new battery. They basically said that in order to replace it, I would have to send it in and have them do the replacement. The cost was just about the same as buying a whole new PLB, which is what they suggested I do. If you think spending $40 bucks for a new pack of Duracells is aggravating, try having to fork out $300 plus dollars for a new unit every few years, knowing the battery is probably still okay.

John M.

Poll: Are You Deferring Avionics Work?

  • Yes I am deferring. This pandemic is going to make or break certain companies, cause retraction of models, avionic selections, and services. I want to make sure what I buy does not become an almost instant orphan.
  • I am going ahead with a few planned upgrades, including a new autopilot now that the Trio and TruTrak units have cut the price for a new full-featured unit.
  • We just added a GTN 650 to our C-172.
  • Avionics and autopilot.
  • Getting around to the 2020 mandate on the cheap.
  • No, I just had a new audio panel and radio installed.
  • We will upgrade when the old are no longer serviceable.
  • Proceeding, but slowed a lot by COVID-19.
  • Too broke to even pay hangar rent and other problems.
  • Not an aircraft owner.
  • Everyone near me is still too busy.
  • Already done.
  • I should be so fortunate as to own an airplane for which I must defer work!
  • Waiting for delayed FAA certification!
  • Price to drop! There is no reason, other than pure profit motive, that avionics are so expensive. Avionics should be just like computer and electronics equipment; better and cheaper every year!
  • I’m not spending any extra money until after the election – too much meddling in the free market by the current administration.
  • Still saving up for it.
  • Don’t own any aircraft.
  • Yes, too expensive.
  • MY planes flies on its wings not its avionics.

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