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ELT Issue Heats Up - Again

March 13, 2013 - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), at the urging of federal agencies with aeronautical search and rescue (SAR) responsibility, has proposed to prohibit the manufacture and sale of new 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs).

These older ELTs have not been monitored by the SAR satellite system since 2009. For 20 years the SAR community has been pressing for a mandated change to 406 MHz ELTs, a move that has been staunchly opposed by EAA and other aviation organizations. Even the FAA has been on record as recently as last year that it did not support such a mandate.

In a meeting at the end of February between FCC personnel and GA representative organizations, it was made clear that not only did the FCC intend to ban the future manufacture and sale of new 121.5 MHz ELTs, but that it was also contemplating an outright ban on the use of the older technology ELTs in the final rule, despite no mention of this in the proposal.

The comment period was originally due to close on March 1, but EAA and several other associations petitioned for an extension citing the need for more time to evaluate the impact of the proposal, particularly in light of the possibility of an outright ban on the use of 121.5 MHz ELTs.

The new comment period deadline is April 1, with an additional 45 days to reply to any other comments in the docket.

EAA and the GA community remain united in opposition to a mandated transition from 121.5 MHz to 406 MHz ELTs and are working to oppose this sweeping and veiled proposal. At the same time, EAA strongly encourages its members, when confronted with the need to repair or replace a 121.5 MHz ELT, to do so with modern 406 MHz or multiband ELTs that are being actively monitored by SAR.

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