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New 406 ELT Rule in Canada Put on Hold

Minister of Transport sends it back to CARAC

May 6, 2009 — The upcoming transition to a new rule in Canada requiring 406 MHz emergency locator transmitters in nearly all general aviation aircraft operating in that country was put on hold this week by John Baird, Canada’s Minister of Transport, says Kevin Psutka, president of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA). Psutka met recently with Transport Canada officials arguing that the rule as written was not workable.

“The regulation as written was unachievable because the allowed alternatives (to installed 406 MHz ELTs) do not exist,” Psutka told EAA on Wednesday. “My argument that this rule was immature was apparently accepted, and the Minister sent it back to the CARAC (Canadian Aviation Regulatory Advisory Council) for revision.”

CARAC is a joint effort of government and the aviation community including participation from organizations representing operators, manufacturers and professional associations.

One of the alternatives Psutka is pushing for is approval of 406 MHz PLBs (personal locator beacons) or tracking devices instead of the significantly more expensive installed ELTs. 

Psutka was quick to say that this development does not eliminate the new rule. “Where it stands: the CARAC will reconvene, and my understanding is that the earliest this will happen is the third week of June,” he said. If everything went as swiftly as possible, a new final rule addressing the Minister’s concerns would be announced no earlier that the end of August, he added. Meanwhile, pilots that have yet to upgrade to the 406 MHz ELTs can continue operating legally with the older 121.5 MHz units, although Psutka cautioned that search and rescue satellites no longer monitor the older frequency.

Denis Browne, chairman of the EAA Canadian Council, was glad to learn that the public would have more input on the rule through the CARAC. “We would like to see the end-users given more opportunity for feedback on potential alternative compliance, such as PLBs, and other ways of dealing with the new technology,” he said. “There also has not been full consideration of the effect of this new rule on international traffic and how to accommodate air tourism. The CARAC usually considers such recommendations.”

EAA reported in December 2008 that Transport Canada was moving forward with its rule to require 406 MHz units on board within two years of February 1, 2009. Exemptions to allow for a transition period were in the works. Psutka said if the PLBs or tracker devices were approved as alternative devices under the new rule, there likely would not be a transition period written into the revised rule.

Because the FAA does not plan to adopt the 406 MHz ICAO standard in the U.S., EAA feels most American aircraft owners will likely choose not to spend the estimated $1,000 (plus installation) to equip their aircraft, resulting in a sharp decline in tourism and business flights by U.S.-registered aircraft into Canada. From May 2007 to May 2008, the Canada Border Services Agency processed more than 63,000 foreign private aircraft, roughly 90 percent U.S.-registered.

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