Manufacturing of 121.5 MHz ELTs to End
January 12, 2012 - The FAA has published a notice that will cancel the TSO standard that governs manufacturing of ELTs operating on 121.5 MHz. That means that once the TSO is canceled, probably later this year, no new models of 121.5 MHz ELTs can be manufactured.
All existing units can continue to be used, as can normally functioning “yellow-tagged” 121.5 MHz ELT and new 121.5 MHz ELTs manufactured to current ELT TSO standards. Also, pilots continue to be authorized by FAR 91.207 to use either a 121.5 MHz or 406 MHz ELT.
The cancellation of the 121.5 MHz ELT TSO is one more very firm indication that the FAA is fully committed to the international standard locator operating on 406 MHz. A number of countries around the world already require the higher frequency ELT that transmits the identification and GPS-derived location of the ELT. Satellites in orbit can receive the 406 MHz signal for rapid location of the emergency signal.
Over the past few years there had been discussions about setting a date requiring U.S. airplane owners to transition to the new 406 MHz ELT, but that has not happened. Newly manufactured airplanes have the new-style ELT installed, and the move to cancel the TSO authorization to manufacture the old-style ELT seems to indicate that the FAA will allow attrition to slowly eliminate the 121.5 MHz ELTs over time.