Termination of Satellite Monitoring of 121.5 MHz ELT's. – ARE YOU READY?

On 1 February 2009 , the International Cospas-Sarsat [1] Organization ( U.S. included) will terminate processing of distress signals emitted by 121.5 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs). Pilots flying aircraft equipped with 121.5 MHz ELTs after that date will have to depend on pilots of over flying aircraft and or ground stations monitoring 121.5 to hear and report distress alert signals, transmitted from a possible crash site.


Protect each other├óÔé¼┬ª


Currently only 12-15% of the registered aircraft in the United States are flying with 406 MHz ELTs.  This means that there is at least an 85% chance that an aircraft in an accident will only transmit a 121.5 MHz signal, thus remaining silent to the satellites.  It will be up to other pilots monitoring the 121.5 MHz frequency in the cockpit to alert Search and Rescue authorities to accidents involving 121.5.  When you fly, look out for your fellow pilots and when possible monitor 121.5 MHz. 


If a 121.5 MHz ELT is heard on guard, report to the nearest air traffic control tower, the time and location of when you first detect the ELT , when it is the loudest and when it drops off your radio.  Listening and reporting may well be the difference that saves a life.  


Protect yourself├óÔé¼┬ª


Cospas-Sarsat System ( U.S. included) has been and will continue processing emergency signals transmitted by 406 MHz ELTs. These 5 Watt digital beacons transmit a much stronger signal, are more accurate, verifiable and traceable to the registered beacon owner (406 MHz ELTs must be registered by the owner in accordance with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation at www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov). Registration allows the search and rescue authorities to contact the beacon owner, or his or her designated alternate by telephone to determine if a real emergency exists. Therefore, a simple telephone call often solves a 406 MHz alerts without launching costly and limited search and rescue resources, which would have to be done for a 121.5 MHz alert. For these reasons, the search and rescue community is encouraging aircraft owners to consider retrofit of 406 MHz ELTs or at a minimum, consider the purchase of a handheld 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacon ( PLB ) which can be carried in the cockpit while continuing to maintain a fixed 121.5 MHz ELT mounted in the aircraft├óÔé¼Ôäós tail.├é┬á Protect yourself and your passengers and Get the Fix├óÔé¼┬ª Switch to 406.


Remember, after February 1, 2009 , the world-wide Cospas-Sarsat satellite system will no longer process 121.5 MHz alert signals. Pilots involved in aircraft accidents in remote areas will have to depend on pilots of over flying aircraft and or ground stations to hear emergency ELT distress signals.  For further information concerning the termination of 121.5 MHz data processing visit www.sarsat.noaa.govor contact Switchto406@noaa.gov with any questions.

[1] The Cospas-Sarsat Organization provides a satellite based world-wide monitoring system that detects and locates distress signals transmitted by Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs), Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs). The system includes space and ground segments which process the signals received from the beacon source and forwards the distress alert data to the appropriate Rescue Coordination Center for action.

Address SARSAT inquiries to:
4231 SuitlandRoad
Suitland, MD 20746
Phone: 301.817.4515
Toll free: 888.212.7283
Fax: 301.817.4565

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