Avionics News July 2013 - 42

THE ELT MESS

Continued from page 40

Full Circle
In its response to the FCC’s latest request for comments,
the Aircraft Electronics Association made two basic points: In
general, the association supports the enhanced safety that TSOC126 ELTs provide over their forebears. This includes “shutting down the pipeline” for new 121.5 MHz-only ELTs, a process the FAA has begun by canceling TSO-C91a. But the AEA
does not support the FCC’s proposal to prohibit the sale of existing TSO-C91a ELTs, nor their decertification. Why? Because
the FAA is the agency “delegated the responsibility for aviation
safety, including the requirement for emergency locator transmitters,” not the FCC. Further, if the FCC were successful in
its move to prohibit TSO-C91a ELTs, doing so would usurp the
FAA’s statutory authority, placing FCC regulations in conflict
with the FAA’s and ceding to an unrelated agency jurisdiction
over installed aircraft equipment and use. As the AEA said, “the
association does not believe it is within the jurisdiction of the
FCC to simply negate another agency’s standard.”
Allowing the FCC to intrude into even this relatively small
portion of the FAA’s jurisdiction would be an extremely poor
precedent, opening the door for the FCC to regulate airborne
use of, for example, portable devices it certifies or – using basically the same logic of greater accuracy and providing “safety
benefits for ... aircraft pilots, crew and passengers” – to phase
out VOR/DME receivers against the FAA’s wishes and in favor
of GPS. Additional aspects of ELT certification and use also
could be targeted for regulation by the FCC. And using the FCC
as justification, other federal and state agencies then could take
it upon themselves to regulate aircraft powerplant emissions or
in-cockpit noise levels, to name but two examples.
In addition to the AEA, other organizations representing
the general aviation industry echo this sentiment. The AOPA
said “the FCC should defer to the FAA, which determines federal policy on issues related to aviation safety.” The National
Business Aviation Association told the FCC 121.5 MHz ELTs
should be grandfathered indefinitely so as to reach their end
of life “without unnecessarily grounding aircraft that would
otherwise be airworthy in accordance with Federal Aviation
Regulations.” Other general aviation organizations agreed,
with the Experimental Aircraft Association stating, “EAA and
the GA community remain united in opposition to a mandated
transition from 121.5 MHz to 406 MHz ELTs and are working
to oppose this sweeping and veiled proposal.”
The AEA stood alone in commenting that there should
be no further manufacturing of C91a ELTs, and suggested a
phase-out period for the older technology.
The reasons for operator reluctance to equip with the newer, better 406 MHz ELTs manufactured under TSO-C126 vary
but can be traced to distrust resulting from their earlier failure
42

avionics news

•

july

2013

rate and the economics involved, plus a very simple realization:
No pilot plans to need his or her ELT. Additionally, many newer
technologies – ADS-B, cellphones, GPS-based trackers and personal locator beacons – can perform most of the ELT’s function
with greater accuracy and reliability, and at lower cost. None of
them, however, comply with the requirement for airplanes to carry a device that will be triggered in a crash and alert authorities.
Can the ELT ever get respect? Sure; when its legacy of
failures and false alarms is overcome, a point which may already be upon us. But in a very real sense, the ELT has come
full circle. As history tells us, it originally was mandated by
Congress to prevent a patchwork of state-level requirements.
Today, the ELT is again the potential subject of multiple jurisdictions, as embodied in the ongoing feud between the FAA
and the FCC. If the FCC prevails, the potential result may be
more agencies with additional jurisdiction over aviation and
avionics. No one in the aviation industry wants that.
And there’s no question the 406 MHz ELT approved under
TSO-C126 is a better mousetrap. Its 5-watt digital signal is much
stronger than a 121.5 MHz ELT’s 0.1-watt transmission, for example. The 406 MHz ELT’s signal also includes information on
ownership, allowing monitoring agencies to verify an emergency
exists before dispatching first responders, and many models can
transmit the aircraft’s last-known position obtained from either
an internal or external GPS receiver, further narrowing down its
location. According to the NTSB, older ELTs initially can be located only to within approximately 12-15 miles of the transmitter, while 406 MHz devices are accurate to within 1-3 miles.
In one of the accidents prompting the NTSB to recommend
mandating 406 MHz ELTs, the 121.5 MHz ELT was heard,
but its signal was plotted “approximately 11.25 miles southwest of the accident site.” By the time rescue personnel arrived more than 16 hours after the ELT was triggered, all survivors were suffering from severe hypothermia. One of them,
a 5-year-old boy, suffered frostbite and gangrene, requiring an
amputation. The boy’s father, the pilot, was rescued alive but
subsequently died from his injuries. It’s clear from the NTSB
report that a more accurate ELT-derived position allowing first
responders to quickly locate the accident site would have prevented both the boy’s amputation and his father’s death.
That accident and its aftermath highlights the difference
between a technology with its roots firmly stuck in the 1970s
and one benefiting from more modern digital capabilities. Putting aside the “inside baseball” surrounding ELT regulation,
on which technology would pilots prefer to stake their lives
and those of their loved ones?
More to the point, Ric Peri, AEA vice president of government and industry affairs said, “If you care about your family,
your friends and your business, when the legacy boat-anchor
of an ELT needs a new battery or maintenance, prudence
should prevail, and pilots and owners must invest the few extra dollars to step up to a true, modern ELT.” q



Avionics News July 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Avionics News July 2013

Point of Communication
AEA Now
The View from Washington
International News and Regulatory Updates
Panel Power for Budget Flying
Member Profile
ADS-B Countdown
Onboard Traffic Systems
A Conversation With...
The ELT Mess
Member Profile
iPads in Maintenance
Before & After
Aviation Aces
Growing Your Market
Avionics News Through the Years
FAA Fact Sheet on General Aviation Safety
AEAviators
'Smart and Cost-Friendly'
Business Basics
Legal Ease
What's New
Marketplace Classifieds
Avionics News July 2013 - Intro
Avionics News July 2013 - Cover1
Avionics News July 2013 - Cover2
Avionics News July 2013 - 1
Avionics News July 2013 - 2
Avionics News July 2013 - 3
Avionics News July 2013 - Point of Communication
Avionics News July 2013 - 5
Avionics News July 2013 - AEA Now
Avionics News July 2013 - 7
Avionics News July 2013 - 8
Avionics News July 2013 - 9
Avionics News July 2013 - 10
Avionics News July 2013 - 11
Avionics News July 2013 - 12
Avionics News July 2013 - 13
Avionics News July 2013 - The View from Washington
Avionics News July 2013 - 15
Avionics News July 2013 - International News and Regulatory Updates
Avionics News July 2013 - 17
Avionics News July 2013 - 18
Avionics News July 2013 - 19
Avionics News July 2013 - Panel Power for Budget Flying
Avionics News July 2013 - 21
Avionics News July 2013 - 22
Avionics News July 2013 - 23
Avionics News July 2013 - Member Profile
Avionics News July 2013 - 25
Avionics News July 2013 - 26
Avionics News July 2013 - 27
Avionics News July 2013 - ADS-B Countdown
Avionics News July 2013 - 29
Avionics News July 2013 - 30
Avionics News July 2013 - 31
Avionics News July 2013 - Onboard Traffic Systems
Avionics News July 2013 - 33
Avionics News July 2013 - 34
Avionics News July 2013 - 35
Avionics News July 2013 - A Conversation With...
Avionics News July 2013 - 37
Avionics News July 2013 - The ELT Mess
Avionics News July 2013 - 39
Avionics News July 2013 - 40
Avionics News July 2013 - 41
Avionics News July 2013 - 42
Avionics News July 2013 - 43
Avionics News July 2013 - Member Profile
Avionics News July 2013 - 45
Avionics News July 2013 - 46
Avionics News July 2013 - 47
Avionics News July 2013 - iPads in Maintenance
Avionics News July 2013 - 49
Avionics News July 2013 - 50
Avionics News July 2013 - 51
Avionics News July 2013 - 52
Avionics News July 2013 - Before & After
Avionics News July 2013 - Aviation Aces
Avionics News July 2013 - 55
Avionics News July 2013 - 56
Avionics News July 2013 - 57
Avionics News July 2013 - Growing Your Market
Avionics News July 2013 - 59
Avionics News July 2013 - 60
Avionics News July 2013 - 61
Avionics News July 2013 - Avionics News Through the Years
Avionics News July 2013 - 63
Avionics News July 2013 - FAA Fact Sheet on General Aviation Safety
Avionics News July 2013 - 65
Avionics News July 2013 - 66
Avionics News July 2013 - 67
Avionics News July 2013 - 68
Avionics News July 2013 - 69
Avionics News July 2013 - AEAviators
Avionics News July 2013 - 71
Avionics News July 2013 - 'Smart and Cost-Friendly'
Avionics News July 2013 - 73
Avionics News July 2013 - Business Basics
Avionics News July 2013 - 75
Avionics News July 2013 - 76
Avionics News July 2013 - 77
Avionics News July 2013 - Legal Ease
Avionics News July 2013 - 79
Avionics News July 2013 - 80
Avionics News July 2013 - 81
Avionics News July 2013 - What's New
Avionics News July 2013 - 83
Avionics News July 2013 - 84
Avionics News July 2013 - 85
Avionics News July 2013 - Marketplace Classifieds
Avionics News July 2013 - 87
Avionics News July 2013 - 88
Avionics News July 2013 - Cover3
Avionics News July 2013 - Cover4
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