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FCC Out of Bounds by Limiting/Banning 121.5 ELTs

EAA sends strong comments to FCC docket

April 2, 2013 - EAA has strongly criticized the Federal Communications Commission for its latest attempt to curtail future use of 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs), frankly telling the commission that it is infringing on aviation safety policy that rightly belongs to the FAA.

EAA's comments came in response to the FCC's third further notice of proposed rulemaking that invited comments on whether the FCC should prohibit the certification, manufacture, importation, sale, or use of 121.5 MHz ELTs.

"There is a long list of reasons why we oppose this FCC rulemaking effort, not the least of which is that the commission is overreaching its knowledge and authority by proposing an outcome that FAA has already analyzed extensively and determined to be unjustified in terms of both safety and cost," said Doug Macnair, EAA's vice president of government relations.

"While the FCC has failed to undertake even the most rudimentary analysis in this rulemaking, the most glaring error is that a mandated change to 406 MHz ELTs does nothing to prevent aviation accidents," Macnair said. "ELTs have also played a very limited role in survival rates post-accident. There is little justification for imposing hundreds of millions of dollars in new equipment requirements on general aviation aircraft owners."

The final EAA comments also remarked that the FCC had failed to conduct any cost-benefit analysis or study on the impact to small business and entities, as required by law. The commission also failed to provide a specific proposal but rather sought comments on a range of proposals that could be part of a final rule.

In addition, the FAA has already stopped the certification of new 121.5 ELT units, which means the GA fleet will eventually move to new technology, whether that is an ELT broadcasting on 406 MHz or new equipment within the proposed NextGen system such as ADS-B.

"There's been a long debate over the true usefulness of the ELT equipment, which was mandated by Congress 40 years ago in response to a single high-profile accident," Macnair said. "Regardless of that, emergency locating capability should be based on performance standards and not tied by regulation to specific decades-old technologies.

"The FCC is essential to ensure that any new equipment operates appropriately within the aeronautical frequency spectrum, but this attempt at rulemaking pushes the commission into aviation safety policy that is under FAA control. EAA will strongly oppose any such FCC move."

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