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Is Your ELT Up To Date?

by John M. White |

If you own an aircraft you should be asking yourself if your ELT is up to date. By this I am not talking about periodic maintenance requirements, but rather are you aware of the changes in ELT technology and what it means for your aircraft? Search And Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) have been with us for some time now, and by law have been in newly manufactured aircraft as required equipment. Those of us old enough to recall remember that the emergency frequency we were to use was 121.5 Mhz, which is also the frequency of the original ELTs. When an aircraft was involved in an accident the ELT was either automatically activated or, in the case of a non-fatal non-violent accident, could be activated by hand. Under the current SARSAT (Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking) System The SARSAT system uses NOAA satellites in low-earth and geostationary orbits to detect and locate aviators, mariners, and land-based users in distress. The satellites relay distress signals from emergency beacons to a network of ground stations and ultimately to the U.S. Mission Control Center (USMCC) in Suitland, Maryland. The USMCC processes the distress signal and alerts the appropriate search and rescue authorities to who is in distress and, more importantly, where they are located. But new technology is at hand, and the old 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters are being phased out and replaced by 406 MHz units which will be incorporated into 24 GPS satellites which are in higher orbits. "With a mid-Earth orbit search-and-rescue capability provided by GPS, one emergency signal goes off, and six satellites will be in view," said Mickey Fitzmaurice, space systems engineer for NASA. "Almost instantly, I can begin processing the signal to determine its precise location. Right now, it can take an hour or more before we can even act on a signal." If you install a 406 MHz ELT in your aircraft or you buy an aircraft with a 406 MHz ELT installed, it is very important to register your emergency beacon. Not only is it required by Federal Regulations but the information you furnish is used by Search and Rescue (SAR) agencies in the event of beacon activation. The registration information is an important tool to assist the United States Coast Guard, United States Air Force, and other SAR agencies in locating and quickly responding to you or your aircraft. Failure to register your beacon could delay a rescue response. By registering your ELT properly you not only assure the most prompt response in case of an accident, but eliminate needless activities if the beacon accidentally activates. Using the registration information the SAR agencies can quickly call and find out if the activation is inadvertent. There is no charge to register your beacon - this service is provided for free by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So, is your ELT up to date? Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!

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