ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby bagarre » Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:15 pm

In the aviation community, is it still a tinfoil hat or does one wear an aluminum fedora instead?
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby gahorn » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:33 pm

cessna170bdriver wrote:If you think that an ELT should be optional equipment, then you might as well keep your 121.5 model, because the chances of it helping someone find you are somewhere between slim and none. My 121.5 ELT got lost in the shuffle after the accident at Creve Coeur, so I opted to go with a 406 replacement. I don’t have a position source for it but at least someone will know I’m down. I went with the ACK brand.


Until reading your post Miles,.... I didn't realize that the installation was allowed to skip the GPS inputs. According to the installation manual, the 406 ELT which is not supplied GPS position input can be located within 2 miles after approx 2 passes of the satellite... which is only a few hours. With GPS input the location can be as close as 300 feet. (They'd still likely have missed Mr. Williams. The ELT signals were already known to be ON the airport and Numerous aircraft overflew his crash site and landed on his intended runway only a hundred feet away and yet no one saw his crashed C-210.)
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby c170b53 » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:41 pm

George for President :D
I’d buy you a beer too but I like you Ameri-king case so much, guess I’ll owe a case for your Dodge cooler and we can carry on where we left off solving world peace :D
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby gahorn » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:44 pm

c170b53 wrote:George for President :D
I’d buy you a beer too but I like you Ameri-king case so much, guess I’ll owe a case for your Dodge cooler and we can carry on where we left off solving world peace :D


I thought we were admiring whirled-peas!
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby TFA170 » Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:33 am

The decision to go to 406 was driven by IMO and ICAO, not FAA - who, as the respective international governing bodies, are responsible for safety on the sea and in the air. The US is a signatory to both IMO and ICAO and generally complies with requirements. Since SARSAT/COSPAS is not owned by the US, we are vulnerable to their decision to cease monitoring 121.5 & 243.0.

However, most airliners still monitor 121.5 on COMM2, and virtually all military still monitor both 121.5 and 243.0 multiple ways (COMM2 and dual-band mil-spec radios). Many transport category military aircraft can DF either/both of these as well. Finally, most military aircraft ELTs are still 121.5/243.0 - very few are 406 (as of a few years ago when I retired).

I have done one search for a downed aircraft and the coordinates I got from SARSAT from a 243.0 beacon were questionable at best. The crash was in rugged terrain and the signal was bouncing around quite a bit and I walked out the door with 3 different sets of coordinates. But the reality is, without the GPS position the 406 brings, this is true for any crash in significant terrain - including 406 w/o GPS. So, the 406 beacon transition is more about GPS positioning than frequency congestion, IMO.

My military aircraft was able to DF both and I gave ATC bearings for 121.5 beacons frequently. I always heard them contacting other military traffic in the area for additional assistance...so triangulation is about as good as SARSAT w/o GPS. And it would seem ATC is still listening to both...
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby gahorn » Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:40 pm

I am not disagreeing with your comment, Richard... but it's FAA...not ICAO ...which requires US operators to be ELT equipped and it's FAA that requires older units be replaced with 406 units. Your experience in DF locating demonstrates how ineffective the system is even with the advent of 406 and GPS. With the PLB and other systems available which have demonstrated better effectiveness, FAA should allow operators to make those choices in lieu of the ineffective ELT requirement.

If FAA requires US operators to be ELT equipped... then shouldn't it at least be incumbent upon FAA (or other US govt agency) to effectively monitor the system? How much sense would it make...and how would we feel if the IFR required VOR/LOC/GS system were not monitored/maintained?
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby TFA170 » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:08 pm

Here's how I see the FAA decision: In order to participate in SARSAT/COSPAS, you have to have 406 ELTs since 2009 or so. (In truth, they extended 121.5 & 243.0 for a short period, but I do believe they're no longer monitored by SARSAT/COSPAS at all.) Clearly, the FAA is the "enforcement arm" and "decision maker" for the US, however, ICAO and IMO were the drivers of the decision. The FAA didn't decide to go to 406 just because, they did it to be able to participate in SARSAT/COSPAS and not have to create a new system to monitor existing 121.5/243.0 ELTs.

The international community is getting harder and harder to deal with regarding exceptions. Once upon a time, many nations had many exceptions to ICAO standards, but unless you're operating a state aircraft (official, gov't, DoD, etc), exceptions are few and far between anymore. There has been a slow movement away from all-US standards to ICAO standards worldwide. Once upon a time, the US was the gold standard and other countries wanted to emulate us. More and more these other countries look to the UN, and by extension ICAO (and IMO) to determine what the standard is. As this has happened, ICAO's influence has grown.

Just as the FAA is "forcing us" to use the international flight plan for domestic flights, so too are they requiring new ELT to be 406 equipped - it's to be in compliance with ICAO standards. We do not own the SARSAT system - NOAA is the agent here in the US for interacting with the system, which is international, and, as you pointed out earlier in the thread, primarily Russian satellites (although there are more international ones now, I think). The FAA does not have the authority to "run" SARSAT/COSPAS in any way that I'm aware of.

Yep, any LOS RF transmission will bounce around in the terrain, and any LOS RF transmission can be triangulated - none, 121.5, 243.0, 406 (stand-alone) or even 2828HF, are is as good as a GPS position transmitted to the RCC who will conduct the SAR. The 406+GPS is the best solution if you want to be found quickly. The SAR I was on was with a 243.0 ELT on a military aircraft in the mountains of Albania, so it does not really say much about 406+GPS, but does say something about how quickly the SARSAT system was able to get us coordinates vs me trying to triangulate with my DF. In truth, I saw the burning wreckage on NVGs once I was close and didn't really use the coordinates for much other than an initial direction to fly towards...

At the end of the day, rescues are a fraction of a percentage of the sheer volume of flights safely conducted every day. When you look at it from a percentage, it doesn't make a lot of sense to spend money duplicating the efforts of SARSAT/COSPAS for purely US operations. Besides, the law of unintended consequences says we'd likely only invite even more government intrusion into our operations, cost us more in terms of tax dollars to own/operate/maintain, and end up with a system that is purely duplicative solely to have our own. I say we piggyback on SARSAT/COSPAS...but that means 406 ELTs (and GPS if you want any increased capability).

If I were king, however, I'd agree with you. To paraphrase a common theme from my old riding days, 'let those who fly decide'. If I want to go out with nothing, let me. If I want to fly with a legacy ELT that may not be satellite monitored and depend on airliners and military traffic for triangulation, let me. If I want SARSAT to find me, let me put a 406+GPS in. If I want to use a PLB, let me...
...but the FAA generally doesn't work that way. And, of course, passenger carrying part 121/125/135 operations would likely be mandated to have 406+GPS ELT, but for part 91, let us figure it out for ourselves.
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby gahorn » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:07 am

We are in agreement as to your conclusion. And to be clear, I am not disagreening that the 406 system as being a better, more useful choice than it's predecessor. I understand that it's a better system for GPS location purposes and ICAO standards also have their place.
My heartburn is in the FAA mandating private operators to have an ELT like a 121.5/243 system they do not themselves support with appropriate response-equipment. If they don't support it...I shouldn't be required to maintain it. IMO
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby TFA170 » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:41 am

Many things the FAA does don't make sense. And many things they do, they do and hide behind "safety" - be it our safety, or those folks on the ground, but more often, paying passengers on part 121 airlines...which tends to trickle down to us in GA.

The old saw about, "if it saves just one life..." seems to be part and parcel of many decisions made at government levels...doesn't have to make sense. :lol:

I'd love a more hands-off FAA - let me take the risks I choose to take - but I think the fact that my plane might land on someone else's head is where they really get their fingers into us...
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby cfzxo » Thu Feb 15, 2018 7:14 am

George, this is my story about ELT's. about 5 years ago i had the misfortune of landing my 170 in about 3 ft of overflow on a mountain top about 45 min from home. Yes it went over on it's back with the ELT antenna buried under the plane. I crawled out, standing there looking what I had done, thought i had better call my wife and tell her that I was ok. this took all of 5 min or less, my wife answered the phone and asked me if I was okay because search and rescue had already called the house because my 406 had gone off. I had good cell reception on that high mountain lake so I quickly called them to tell them to stand down, as they were about to leave Comox and rescue me. They knew who I was the aircraft etc. as this unit is registered with the appropriate authority giving them all the information in the signal. I was more embarrassed but also relieved to know that my $ 1300.00 ELT worked so well. But I also know how screwed but these things are. Point in case was when I left the home strip one summer evening to fly to my job in Fort ST. James, I had been gone about half hour or so when the RCMP arrive at the door to inform my wife that they had a report of a beacon going off in out back yard. scared the hell out of my wife as I had just left. she had no way of contacting me. They searched around for a couple of hours, because they had coordinates.By then I called home to say that I had arrived at the Fort. It turns out that the RCMP had the wrong coordinates given to them and the problem was somewhere in the Yukon, french couple lost when hiking, PLB. not going to mention all the 121.5 problems over the years :D I have had good luck with mine the only time I tested it I didn't really need it. I believe we are not required to have the 406 here yet but I for one have and also have Spot for long isolated trips when flying north. But making it mandatory and not monitoring is totally stupid, 406 is monitored here but 121.5 isn't, that is my understanding. These are stories for Cody while checking out the Beer.
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby ghostflyer » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:22 pm

George is paying for the first shout of beers :lol: what I have been told and believe to a point that the worlds aviation has to Harmoniz with its regulations and structure. I am a big Fan of the FAA system and think the ERASA and CAA ,CASA and so forth should be more inclined towards the FAA system as % 70 of aircraft originated in the USA.
Now getting back to 406 sarga I was under the impression that the 406 units transmission transmit on the 406 frequency as the older units transmitting the 121.5 frequency did wander .
However the 406 freq is monitored in Singapore , England , Australia and Canada. This is due to the satellites position .
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby TFA170 » Thu Feb 15, 2018 3:01 pm

http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/faq%202.html

http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/satellites1.html

"The system is unique in the way that it is operated and funded, because its use is free of charge to the end user in distress. It is both a service to the public and a tool to help SAR forces do their jobs more efficiently and reduce their costs, although these cost savings are sometimes difficult to quantify.
The cost of implementing and operating the COSPAS-SARSAT system is shared by various member governments, while the cost of buying and maintaining distress beacons is the responsibility of the users, but they pay no fee to access the system. Under the international agreement, the four founding countries provide the LEO space segment and they, as well as several other countries, own and operate ground receiving stations and mission control centres. The administrative costs of the secretariat are shared by all 40 member countries."

--from Commerce in Space: Infrastructures, Technologies and Applications, edited by Phillip Oila

Of note, the US is one of the four founding countries.
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby c170b53 » Thu Feb 15, 2018 3:33 pm

My unit, a 406 does not have an GPS input but I'm under the impression by its signal, the search would be pinpointed down to several football fields whereas a GPS signal would be down to under a decent 3 point conversion. I would have gone to a GPS unit but unfortunately in Canada they added a regulation that only approve shops can install the GPS units, too bad.
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby gahorn » Thu Feb 15, 2018 4:21 pm

David, the 406 unit broadcasts are picked up via satellite and relayed to whichever SAR has jurisdiction in the area of the broadcast, per int'l agreements as Richard pointed out.
The ELT mandate for US owner/operators spring from the loss of a US congressman Hale Boggs*, in Alaska back in 1972. The month-long search for his missing plane, a chartered Cessna 310, involved 50 civilian airplanes, 40 military planes searching over 300,000 sq miles to no avail. After 40 days they finally gave up.

The kneejerk reaction was for congress to call upon the FAA to issue regulations requiring 121.5/243 Mhz ELTs in all airplanes not already served by a networked dispatch system. This allowed Airlines, Military, and other Gov't and a select group of business airplanes to avoid the wasted expense. I have always wondered... Since it was a CHARTERED airplane... why didn't they impose it on CHARTER services alone? (My suspicion: Lobbiests for avionics mfr's jumped on the bandwagon to cast the net wider.)

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assoc'n fought it heartily pointed out that the statistics indicate that such a system would never recover benefits commensureate with the expense imposed on owners and that such equipment should be optional, not mandatory. In fact, Alaska state statutes already required an ELT at the time of the crash but no signal from the plane was ever picked up. The pilot, Don Jonz, owned a PLB but it was found back at his home field, apparently not taken on the flight.)
(AOPA had previously managed to win for small plane owners in the 1960s when CAA/FAA tried to impose transponders on all aircraft, by arguing that most small airplanes do not operate in the then-crowded airspance being simultaneously-proposed that involved upside-down wedding-cake TCAs. They were successful in that argument to the extent that aircraft not operating in the TCAs would be excluded from the requirement. BTW- at that time transponders typically weighed approx 20 lbs, were sized like a shoe-box, and cost approx $6K...which is more than many airplanes in private hands cost at that time. AOPA has dramatically changed their stance on mandated electronics/equipment as their monetary support has morphed from membership-dues to income from advertising and insurance. Like all things political.... Follow the Money!)

Huge areas of the U.S. were overlaid with UNcontrolled airspace back in the 1960s. That has now changed to the point that finding large areas of uncontrolled airspace is difficult, and so the regulations changed and the majority of all aircraft today, in order to have meaningful utility, are required to have altitude-encoded transponders.

The lack of an effective SAR system has contributed to the failure of the ELT system-effectiveness. An ELT can be driven into a cliff-side in a remote area and it will run out of battery-capacity to transmit before it can be found by ordinary DF-driven SAR responders. Also, once-infrequent (pardon the pun) VHF transmissions are so commonplace nowadays that the airways are "smudged" (for lack of a better term) and difficult to isolate in the "fog" of VHF transmissions worldwide... to monitor from earth-orbit, and since no national entities have risen to the task of creating effective SAR-monitoring-plans... it has become evident that space-based/satellite monitoring in the UHF band is a more accurate and timely method to use. The Russians already had a satellite monitoring that band (in order to spy upon U.S. Military communications world-wide which used the same band) and their SAR methods favored the 406 UHF freq. for their purposes. Since "Detente" led to better cooperation between superpowers, the decision to cooperate/coordinate a monitoring system on 406 has resulted. Detente also has resulted in a global-economic environment that has filtered into AOPA and now they are wildly excited about any avionic gizmo that will bring them advertising dollars.

* Anyone who enjoys conspiracy theories should love the Hale Boggs story. One theory endorses the concept that Hale Boggs, a congressman from notoriously-corrupt Louisiana political circles, happened to have served on the Warren Commission... which was the highly-criticised investigation into the JFK assassination. Boggs had vociferously opposed the Lyndon Johnson supported Warren Commission's conclusion. Boggs publicly stated that he found the concept of a "single bullet" and "lone assassin" to be "mysterious" and unbelievable.
Isn't it strange that Boggs later disappears never to be found....

and an ELT likely would not have helped either..... but they made us all install one.

Another conspiracy theory is very curious: Another congressman was on board also but almost never mentioned... Nick Begich (D-AK).
This theory points out that his widow married a Mafia hit-man "Max" Pasley after her missing husband was declared legally-dead. Hmmmmnn.....
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby The FAA » Thu Feb 15, 2018 7:38 pm

I am watching this thread with great interest.
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