Aireon Alert has promised to provide free emergency response tracking for any ADS-B-equipped aircraft, anywhere in the world—yet if a general aviation pilot goes to their website to register, they might get a different impression. “The service is only available to commercial aircraft operators, ANSPs [air navigation service providers], regulators and search and rescue organizations,” the website says. “The service is not designed for private pilots and the General Aviation (GA) community.” However, Aireon confirmed to AVweb in an email on Wednesday that the satellite-based service will help find a GA airplane in distress, by working with the search and rescue provider. There is no need for individual GA owners or pilots to register in advance.
If a properly equipped airplane goes missing, Aireon said, “the appropriate search-and-rescue organization can call the Aireon Alert 24/7 phone number and provide the missing aircraft’s unique ICAO 24-Bit Address (in HEX, i.e. 4CA123) or Flight ID. The Aireon Alert operator will search for the last known position of the aircraft, and if found, will provide that location in WGS84 coordinates to the search and rescue organization over the phone. The Aireon Alert operator will also email a report of the location of the missing aircraft to the designated representative within the pre-registered organization.” Aireon added that the satellite-based service was envisioned to provide rescue support especially above oceans, polar regions and mountainous terrain, where aircraft surveillance is currently lacking. The system is on track to begin operations early next year.