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Clearing The Air on ELTs

August 2009

The United States does not require the 406MHz Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), but as of February 1, 2009, the international monitoring of your 121.5/243 MHz ELT signal ended. The only way to locate a downed aircraft is by using ground-based receivers or an overflying aircraft. Although still legal from the FAA’s perspective, 121.5MHz ELTs will provide extremely limited assistance in the event of a crash.

The installation of a new 406MHz ELT can vary from relatively simple to somewhat complicated, depending on the type of aircraft and the current ELT. The procedure will require replacement of the existing ELT unit and installation of the new 406 MHz antenna. Typical downtimes can range from approximately one day to as many as five days, depending on the ELT antenna requirement. A blade-style antenna is usually required for most Part 25 aircraft. Pricing for installed systems can run from $1,000 to as much as $25,000 depending on your aircraft.

A Nav interface unit is an option that you also may want to consider. This option will transmit the last latitude and longitude from your GPS or FMS and will allow searchers to locate you much quicker. This interface will require additional wiring from the unit to the aircraft’s GPS/FMS system and will add about $4,000 to the installation plus possible costs to route wires from the front to the back of the aircraft in some cases.

The requirement for 406MHz ELTs is on hold pending further review and discussions by Transport Canada. At this time the 406 MHz ELT is not mandatory in Canada. Please note, you are required to re-register the beacon every two years. Atmospheric Administration Registration and updating can be done on-line at beaconregistration.noaa.gov.