Comments have closed on the FCC’s proposal to phase out 121.5 MHz ELTs but a group of senators has made it a political issue. Five members of the Senate GA Caucus, led by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., have written the head of the FCC, Julius Genachowski, urging him to drop the plan. The senators argue that ELTs will be redundant when the NextGen air traffic system is fully implemented, and effectively making new 406 MHz ELTs mandatory for the big majority of GA pilots who still have 121.5 units is a waste of time and money. “Should the FCC move forward with its proposed rule to ban the use or manufacture of 121.5 MHZ ELTs, the general aviation industry will be required to install $500 million of technology which could soon become obsolete once the FAA fully implements that satellite based navigation system authorized under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012,” said the letter. But a 406 MHz ELT manufacturer says the 406 MHz units are vastly superior and not as costly to pilots as opponents are saying it will be.
Mike Akatiff, owner of ACK Electronics, says he was “appalled” by AOPA’s vigorous opposition to the rule, which he said has the support of the search and rescue community and the military. “I don’t know why the AOPA is so opposed to this,” he wrote in an email to AVweb. “Yes I know I have a vested interest in getting it past but the 406 is really a great improvement over 121.5 MHz.” The 121.5 signals are no longer received by search and rescue satellites and the 406 signals contain contact information and other data that searchers can use to determine whether a signal is the result of a crash or has been triggered by mistake. The vast majority of ELT signals are in error. Akatiff also said the assumption that NextGen and ADS-B will make ELTs redundant is flawed because ADS-B signals are line-of-sight and can be hampered by terrain and distance.