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What is an ELT?
An ELT is an emergency locator transmitter. It is a device that can be automatically or manually activated to transmit a distress signal to a satellite. The beacon ID, also referred to as the Unique Identification Number (UIN) is comprised of 15 hexadecimal characters. There three types of ELTs:
(1) Automatic Fixed (AF) ELTs are intended to be permanently attached to the aircraft before and after a crash and are designed to aid search and rescue teams in locating a crash site.
(2) Automatic Portable (AP) ELTs are intended to be rigidly attached to the aircraft before the crash but readily removable from the aircraft after a crash.
ELTs can transmit at either 121.5 MHz or 406 MHz, however satellite alerting of 121.5 MHz distress signals was discontinued in February, 2009.
Do I have to install an ELT on my aircraft?
How do I install an ELT on my Airplane?
Although not a complicated procedure, Survival Aviation does not have specific installation recommendations for specific aircraft. The general guidelines provided in the ELT Installation and Operation Manual are all that we can provide. Any licensed FBO, aircraft mechanic, or aircraft repair facility can perform the installation and have it signed off by an IA mechanic. Survival Aviation is an ELT dealer/distributor, not an installer. Refer to the Manual and Advisory Circular AC 43.13-2A chapters 1 through 3, 11 and 13 specifically for ELTs also Chapter 2 Paragraph 28.
How much does it cost to install an ELT?
These are estimated installation costs associated with the new 406 MHz ELTs. Most aircraft built in the last 15 years already have a remote activation switch (in the cockpit) for the ELT. In most cases, this wiring can be used for the remote switch (which is required by law) for the new 406MHz ELT. In older aircraft (typically older than 15 years), a remote switch will need to be installed. An average repair shop charges $80.00/hour. If the aircraft has a remote switch installed already, the installation time is 3-6 hours ($240-$480). If the aircraft does not have a remote switch installed, the installation time is 5-15 hours ($400-$1200).
Can I reuse my old 121.5 MHz ELT antenna?
Unfortunately, no. The new 406 MHz ELTs use a much higher frequency that requires a new antenna. Some of the new 406 MHz antennas can transmit on all three frequencies (121.5/243.0/406) MHz. *NOTE* The BNC (coax) cable, the cable used to connect the ELT to the antenna, can be used interchangeably for the old 121.5 ELTs and the new 406MHz ELTs as long as it is an RG142 or RG400 type (both very common). The RG58 (black) cable is not compatible. Most kits come complete with the coax cable included.
What is the difference between emergency beacons that operate at 121.5 MHz and those that operate at 406 MHz?
121.5 MHz beacons transmit an analog signal that can only be detected by overflying aircraft monitoring the 121.5 signal. Satellites no longer monitor the 121.5 MHz signal. The analog signal does not contain any information about the beacon or its user. Alternatively, 406 MHz beacons transmit a digital signal that contains information on the type of beacon and owner. Additionally, 406 MHz beacons can be linked to registration information that can provide search and rescue forces valuable information when responding to a distress signal. The 406 MHz beacons are 50 times more powerful in signal strength than the 121.5 MHz beacons.
Why was the decision made to phase-out 121.5 MHz satellite alerting?
The search and rescue community recommended phasing out 121.5 MHz satellite alerting because: (1) Responding to the tremendous number of 121.5 MHz false alerts (most of which originate from non-beacon sources) relayed by satellites is not efficient, and needlessly expends limited resources, or diverts resources from real incidents (there were an average of 120,000 false alerts per year over the past three years in the United States alone. (2) Identification information is not available which means a launch of resources is usually necessary to resolve the incident. (3) The 406 MHz system, which was designed for relay through satellites, is operational and provides increased reliability, identification information, better location accuracy, a global capability, and quicker alerting through the geostationary satellite system.
How will the 406 MHz ELTs work better?
Will new 406 MHz beacons have 121.5 MHz homers after the phase-out?
Beacons that transmit at 121.5 MHz can provide an alerting function and a homing function. 406 MHz beacons can continue to have 121.5 MHz homers. The phase-out only affects the satellite alerting capabilities of 121.5 MHz emergency beacons.
As the aviation community is affected by this decision what is the FAA’s position on the issue?
To support international aviation safety, the FAA agreed with ICAO’s proposal to mandate carriage of 406 MHz ELTs in international operations. However, the FAA disagreed with the original termination [of 121.5 MHz satellite processing] date of 2005 as it would not allow an orderly transition for the 100,000 general aviation aircraft in the United States. The FAA proposed an alternative date of 2008. 2009 was finally accepted internationally.
What is the difference between fixed and non-fixed (or survival ELTs)?
A fixed ELT is mounted on the aircraft, usually in the tail section, and is designed to be automatically activated on impact. A survival ELT (or BLB) is designed to be carried on board and activated manually. The cost of a manually activated ELT is lower (since there is no requirement to include a complex G-switch), and there are no installation costs (due to the required wiring and instrumentation in the cockpit), which means a lower cost to the owner/operator. Although not directly related to the issue of terminating 121.5 MHz satellite alerting, this issue has been linked to the phase-out by many people. This is primarily due to the reduced costs. Proponents of survival ELTs also believe that having a manually activated ELT in the cockpit will increase the survivability, and the operation of an ELT in a crash. In order to meet the current regulations (Federal Aviation Regulations Part 91.207), an aircraft owner/operator must have an automatic fixed (AF), automatic portable (AP), or automatic deployable (AD) ELT on board the aircraft. All of these types automatically activate on impact.
What are the advantages of mounting the ELT in the tail instead of carrying it in the cockpit?
The Federal Aviation Regulations state that a fixed or deployable ELT must be attached to the airplane as far aft as possible (tail section). Studies have shown that the ELT has the highest probability of survival in this area.
Why should the user pay more to transition to 406 MHz ELTs?
Very Simple. Aircraft operators have a better chance of being saved with the use of a 406 MHz ELT.
What is the impact of not switching to 406MHz?
Beacon owners will continue to have an inferior level of service and additional lives will be lost.
If I’m a pilot, should I monitor for 121.5 MHz signals?
Yes. Pilots are encouraged to monitor 121.5 MHz and/or 243.0 MHz while in flight to assist in identifying possible emergency ELT transmissions. On receiving a signal, report the following information to the nearest air traffic facility: (1) Your position at the time the signal was first heard. (2) Your position at the time the signal was last heard. (3) Your position at maximum signal strength. (4) Your flight altitudes and frequency on which the emergency signal was heard: 121.5 MHz or 243.0 MHz. If possible, positions should be given relative to a navigation aid.
What is the beacon identification code and where can I find it on the beacon?
What is the Unique Identifier Number (UIN)?
The UIN is the same as the beacon ID, see above.
How do I test my emergency beacon?
That depends on the type of beacon you own. You can test your 121.5 MHz ELTs only during the first five (5) minutes after any hour and you may only activate the ELT for three audible sweeps. If operational tests must be made outside of this period, they should be coordinated with the nearest FAA Control Tower or FSS. If the antenna is removable, a dummy load should be substituted during test procedures. In any case airborne tests are not allowed. 406 MHz emergency beacons should never be activated unless you are in grave and eminent danger. 406 MHz emergency beacons should only be tested using the “self-test” feature of the beacon or the beacon should be taken to an authorized dealer or test facility.
Do I need to inspect my ELTs, and how often?
Who is required to carry an ELT?
What can I do to reduce false alerts?
You have the primary responsibility to prevent false alerts. You should ensure that you only activate an emergency beacon in situations of grave and imminent danger. You should also follow the manufacturer’s instructions for testing your beacon. Lastly you should ensure that automatically activated beacons are properly mounted so that a simple “bump” will not cause them to fall out of their bracket and activate. Caution should be exercised to prevent the inadvertent activation of ELTs in the air or while they are being handled on the ground. Accidental or unauthorized activation will generate an emergency signal that cannot be distinguished from the real thing, leading to expensive and frustrating searches. A false ELT signal could also interfere with genuine emergency transmissions and hinder or prevent the timely location of crash sites. Frequent false alarms could also result in complacency and decrease the vigorous reaction that must be attached to all ELT signals. Numerous cases of inadvertent activation have occurred as a result of aerobatics, hard landings, movement by ground crews and aircraft maintenance. Maintain your ELT regularly. Low batteries can cause erroneous signals and generate false alarms. Conversely, false alarms can cause low batteries. So, make sure you've got strong batteries in your ELT.
What should I do if I have accidentally activated my emergency beacon?
Who has to register a 406 MHz emergency beacon?
How can I register my 406 MHz EPIRB, ELT or PLB or update my information?
There are several ways to register you 406 MHz beacon with NOAA. You may send the registration card or information to the address below or fax it to (301) 817-4565: Beacon Registration NOAA/NESDIS, NSOF, E/SP34231 Suitland RoadSuitland, MD 20746
Alternatively, you can save time and money, and improve the accuracy of the information you provide by registering your beacon via the Internet at www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov.
How do I update by beacon registration information?
Does NOAA automatically send of Proof-of-Registration decals and confirmation reports?
Yes. You should receive a Proof-of-Registration decal (place this small sticker on the ELT/PLB itself) when you initially register your beacon and when you confirm your registration information every two years. In either case, the decal is sent to the postal address listed on the registration.
Are there times when I will receive a Proof-of-Registration decal even though it hasn’t been two years since I registered, or last updated my information?
ELT: When the tail number on the aircraft has changed or you select the new registration option.
PLB: When the owner name changes or you select the new registration option.
Or, you’ll receive a new decal when you select the “Replace Decal” option on the web-based registration system.
How long is my registration information valid in the NOAA registry?
The registration information, and the corresponding proof-of-registration decal, is valid for two years. The FCC requires that you renew your registration every two years. However, you are encouraged to provide updates to your registration anytime it’s required.
How long does it take to receive my proof-of-registration decal in the mail?
To whom is my 406 MHz emergency beacon registration information released?
The registration information is only released to search and rescue authorities such as the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Air Force. In certain cases NOAA may release your registration information to beacon manufacturers or service agents so that they may send you urgent service announcements.
What happens if I do not register by 406 MHz emergency beacon?
Who should I list as an emergency point of contact on by 406 MHz emergency beacon registration form?
Why do I have to re-new my registration every two years?
When do I receive a renewal request (or confirmation request) for my beacon registration?
The renewal letter or request for confirmation is mailed approximately 60 days prior to the proof-of-registration decal expiring.
What do I do if I lend my emergency beacon to someone?
That depends on how frequently you lend your beacon and for how long you lend your beacon. If you frequently lend your beacon to someone else or its used on another vessel you may wish to note this fact under the “ADDITIONAL DATA” section of the registration form. The same holds true if you lend you beacon to someone for an extended period. If this occurs infrequently or only for a short time you should update your registration via the web-based registration database (www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov). In these cases, adding an email address is important so that you are immediately notified when the registration is updated.
How do I change registration information if I purchased a beacon from someone else?
First of all, the person you bought the beacon from must have told us that the beacon was sold, in which case you simply log on to our web-based registration database (www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov) and register the beacon as a “NEW REGISTRATION” and complete the online form. If the previous owner has not informed us that the beacon was sold, you’ll need to call us to assist you. You’ll be asked to provide some details about the vessel or aircraft that the beacon belongs to.