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FCC Pulls Order to Prohibit 121.5 MHz ELTs

January 12, 2011 — Citing a request by the FAA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a final rule on Tuesday, January 11, removing its earlier prohibition of 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) in the United States. Last June the FCC published a change to 47 CFR Part 87 calling for “prohibiting the certification, manufacture, importation, sale, or use of 121.5 MHz ELTs other than the Breitling Emergency Watch ELT,” due to the fact that satellite monitoring of 121.5 MHz units terminated in 2009.

After protests by EAA and other organizations, the FAA soon requested that the FCC not implement the rule amendment because it created a conflict in federal regulations; general aviation aircraft are required to be equipped with ELTs - the overwhelming majority of which are 121.5 MHz. Since the current supply of 406 MHz ELTs is not sufficient to replace all existing 121.5 MHz ELTs in the short term, such a law would essentially ground most GA aircraft, the FAA said.

EAA brought forth that very issue when the FCC rule was published in the Federal Register and worked with other aviation associations to explore all avenues of action to address the rule before it went into effect.

EAA contended the regulatory change would impose a substantial and unwarranted cost on general aviation and also would create a burden for the GA community and those ground-based rescue units that continue to use the 121.5 frequency to perform searches and save lives.

At the very least, EAA contended, the FCC’s action was conducted without properly communicating with the industry or understanding the implications of its action.

This week’s FCC final rule states that no action will be taken regarding 121.5 MHz ELTs until further notice, following an additional opportunity for interested parties to comment.

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