changes being made to the monitoring of Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT)
and your life could depend on it. Traditionally, distress signals have
been transmitted over 121.5 MHz and/or 243 MHz for search and rescue
satellites to "hear."
February 1, 2009, the COSPAS-SARSAT will stop monitoring 121.5 MHz and
243 MHz and transition to monitoring the 406 MHz frequency for which you
will need a newer, more advanced beacon that sends out an encoded
digital 406 MHz signal. Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) transmit on 406
MHz. Currently, there is an international mandate from ICAO that all
aircraft need to carry the new ELTs. The FAA hasnít enforced this
mandate to this point, but it is highly recommended that the U.S.
aviation community switch over. It could be the difference between life
are the reasons for switching? One problem is that more than 90 percent
of the alarms that are received by ELTs are false, but the Rescue
Coordination Centers (RCCís) still have to search and confirm the
calls. Some culprits are pizza ovens, ATMs, and sports stadium
beacons are unique because they have a specific identification code,
which helps eliminate half of the false alarms. All aircraft are
required to register their new beacon with the National Oceanic and
Atmosphere Association (NOAA) and provide their name, phone number, two
emergency contacts, aircraft make and model, and N number. "Thatís
how weíll know the signal is unique and that itís an aircraft. We
can immediately call the pilot and confirm and ask if they are actually
flying or need help," Lt. Jeff Shoup, SARSAT Operations Support
Officer, explains. "Itís a huge safety improvement. The name and
number taking will eliminate the rest of the false alarms such as
setting it off while testing, landing hard, and installing it wrong.Some
ask how will they know if their ELT is going off with the new device.
You can still go to 121.5 MHz at the top of the hour to test it like you
did in the past.
beacon model still communicates by satellite, but there is a lot more
coverage. The old beacons only pinpoint a 15-20 km search area on a
1/2-watt analog signal, where the new beacon pinpoints down to a 3-5 km
search area on a 5-watt digital signal. 121.5 MHz had some dead spots
and was picked up by low earth orbiting satellites, which are overhead
for a 2-3 hour period. The new beacon uses geostationary satellites that
are always overhead to find you and are much more accurate. However, it
doesnít always give you the exact location.
the new beacon model, we can make a call to the pilot or contacts and
pinpoint the location," explains Jeff. "Some people have been
rescued without the position pinpointed because of this [registered ELTs]."
tells a success story about a pilot and his nephew that went down in
their helicopter in Washington State around 8 p.m. They werenít
expected back that night. They set off their personal locator beacon (PLB)
using the 406 beacon frequency, and the time from that moment to when
they arrived at the hospital was only 2 hours and 45 minutes.
wants more success stories like that and is striving to get the word out
about the new beacons. There are 250,000 registered aircraft in the
United States and only 25,000 are on the 406. Thatís only a tenth of
the population! Thatís why their slogan is "Make the switch to
MHz beacon models can cost more, but when it comes to your life and the
lives of your loved ones, itís priceless. Find out more about the 406
beacon models and how they can use GPS technology at the SARSAT booth
located in the Federal Pavilion.
If you have questions
call EAA Technical Services at 888-322-4636.