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Should I upgrade my ELT to 406 mhz?

Cardiff Kook

PATRON
Sisters, OR
I have an EBC 502. It's 121.5 mhz and 243 mhz. Battery is due in May.

I am in Central Oregon and it can get relatively remote quickly when flying around- mountainous terrain, etc.

I went to a WINGS seminar recently. The presenter recocommended a 406- as the 121.5 mhz can be very hard to pinpoint.

A new battery is $100 (basically free for aviation.)

Should I look to upgrade my ELT? Recommnedations.
 
I was faced with this same decision recently,, I installed a Artex 345 with GPS connection. I live and fly in Alaska and have some remote flying plans. I also like having a remote switch that I can reach from the pilots seat. With the old ELT batteries getting harder to source and no way to activate from the Pilots seat, the choice was easy for me.
 
No one actively monitors 121.5 mhz anymore. If you want anyone to start looking for you, if you crash, then a 406 mhz ELT or a PLB is your only option.

Web
 
No one actively monitors 121.5 mhz anymore.

No one?

While it is true that 121.5 is no longer monitored by Cospas Sarsat I think you will find there are many stations, both ground and air, monitoring 121.5 for voice emergency traffic and for beacon signals.

I have heard no reports that CAP have removed 121.5 DF capability from their search aircraft.
 
Also get a In Reach. Your family can monitor your flight and if you do have a hard landing or issue you can send a message that you are ok and what parts you need to get home. Having rescue crews and local searching for days in bad weather trying to find a missing plane is dangerous for everybody. DENNY
 
We monitor 121.5 whenever we’re flying in the twotters out your way so we MIGHT hear ya.

when I flipped my -12 recently I was in cell service and close to a road, but had I not been….I had a phone call from the Air Force within 30 seconds of the crash. Had I been injured or out of cell service someone would have been looking for me in minutes and they would know exactly where I’m at. That’s worth it to me 100%.
 
Wow- consensus on a topic on supercub.org? Looks like I will be upgrading.

Any recommendation other than the artex unit? Or is that the way to go?

:)
 
Any recommendation other than the artex unit? Or is that the way to go?

If I were looking for a 406 ELT the first question I would ask is - Do I need an ELT with an internal GPS receiver or will I wire a suitable external GPS data source to the ELT?

If you chose an internal GPS then can you position it so it has good GPS reception?

If you chose an external GPS source then will that source and the wiring survive the crash?
 
If I were looking for a 406 ELT the first question I would ask is - Do I need an ELT with an internal GPS receiver or will I wire a suitable external GPS data source to the ELT?

If you chose an internal GPS then can you position it so it has good GPS reception?

If you chose an external GPS source then will that source and the wiring survive the crash?

My plane doesn't currently have GPS other than Foreflight.
 
No one?

While it is true that 121.5 is no longer monitored by Cospas Sarsat I think you will find there are many stations, both ground and air, monitoring 121.5 for voice emergency traffic and for beacon signals.

I have heard no reports that CAP have removed 121.5 DF capability from their search aircraft.

No official entities actively monitor 121.5 mhz. The reason it's left in the 'on the ground' guys is because they have had 121.5 locator equipment for years. Each 406 mhz ELT puts out a low power 121.5 mhz signal for those guys to use that existing equipment to find you in the weeds after they reach the crash site.

Web
 
I elected to keep my old EBC 102 but mounted a small PLB on the wing panel in reach.
 
No official entities actively monitor 121.5 mhz.

Perhaps you should push for a correction to the Aeronautical Information Manual which currently states -

"121.5 MHz and 243.0 MHz. [FONT=&quot]Both have a range generally limited to line of sight. 121.5 MHz is guarded by direction finding stations and some military and civil aircraft. 243.0 MHz is guarded by military aircraft. Both 121.5 MHz and 243.0 MHz are guarded by military towers, most civil towers, and radar facilities. Normally [/FONT]ARTCC[FONT=&quot] emergency frequency capability does not extend to radar coverage limits. If an [/FONT]ARTCC[FONT=&quot] does not respond when called on 121.5 MHz or 243.0 MHz, call the nearest tower."[/FONT]
 
Commercial cargo and passenger overfly daily....do they monitor 121.5 anymore? Ask MTV about that option way back.

Gary
 
Commercial cargo and passenger overfly daily....do they monitor 121.5 anymore?

I expect there are some part 121 or 135 operators here who will comment. It was my understanding that if the aircraft is equipped with 3 coms radios then one is tuned to 121.5. If there are only 2 then less likely 121.5 will be monitored.

I flew thousands of miles of cross country in gliders long before GPS and cell phones. I usually carried a high altitude IFR chart so I knew the frequencies to call airliners if I needed a relay. Always tried to give another glider pilot my position before a "land out" and never had to use the "airliner option".
 
121.5 is a search after many hours. A 406 is a rescue after the phone call to the emergency contact you registered. As told to me by a search and rescue pilot in Alaska.
 
The standard default at my airline (US cargo with 6000 pilots) is ATC in #1, 121.5 in #2 unless we need it for something else temporarily, ACARS data communications in #3. I believe we all fly this way including North Atlantic crossings. We will hear your ELT if it goes off and commonly tell ATC if its a strong signal and not near the top of the hour. It might be a character default of mine (or is it strength? depends I suppose) to turn down my volume on #2 if the frequency has nuisances on it.
 
I have no doubt at all that a 406 ELT that activates will give far quicker location of the crash site than a 121.5 ELT that activates. If you hope that an ELT will save you then it's obvious that 406 is a far better choice than 121.5.

More from AIM -

"
Because of the large number of 121.5 MHz ELT false alerts and the lack of a quick means of verifying the actual status of an activated 121.5 MHz or 243.0 MHz analog ELT through an owner registration database, U.S. SAR forces do not respond as quickly to initial 121.5/243.0 MHz ELT alerts as the SAR forces do to 406 MHz ELT alerts. Compared to the almost instantaneous detection of a 406 MHz ELT, SAR forces' normal practice is to wait for confirmation of an overdue aircraft or similar notification. In some cases, this confirmation process can take hours. SAR forces can initiate a response to 406 MHz alerts in minutes compared to the potential delay of hours for a 121.5/243.0 MHz ELT. Therefore, due to the obvious advantages of 406 MHz beacons and the significant disadvantages to the older 121.5/243.0 MHz beacons, and considering that the International Cospas-Sarsat Program stopped the monitoring of 121.5/243.0 MHz by satellites on February 1, 2009, all aircraft owners/operators are highly encouraged by both NOAA and the FAA to consider making the switch to a digital 406 MHz ELT beacon. Further, for non-aircraft owner pilots, check the ELT installed in the aircraft you are flying, and as appropriate, obtain a personal locator beacon transmitting on 406 MHz."

I was only contesting the assertions that "No one actively monitors 121.5 mhz anymore" and "No official entities actively monitor 121.5 mhz" . I think I have shown that 121.5 is monitored and I think it is quite likely that a 121.5 beacon signal will be reported. However, it could take a long time before that report results in finding the crash site.
 
Locally they quit monitoring 121.5. It could go off till the battery is dead and nobody would even know. Of course legally you're required to keep a fresh battery for a tool that's no longer in service.
 
A guy crashed crashed his Bonanza at my airport a while back trying to land in a thunderstorm at 9PM. He sat in the plane in an irrigation canal off the end of the runway overnight with the 121.5 beacon going off. No one knew until the next morning when the T-38s heard it on 243.0. Two days later someone asked me to go out to the wreck and turn it off.
 
Interestiing article.

https://www.aviationconsumer.com/safety/is-a-406-elt-worth-it-reduce-expectations/

Paul seems to think they arent worth it. Not sure how statistically reliable the data is.

If i do go for a 406- should in then put gps in? I just use foreflight.

Makes me realize- while i have an inreach I dont have it tracking all the time. For $40 or $50 a month probably should. Then just give the link to a bunch of people.
 
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Personally, if I had a functioning 121.5 ELT and wanted to improve my chances of being located in a crash, i would keep the ELT and buy a PLB that transmits on 406 mHz. then carry the PLB with me. Airframe mounted ELTs have a so-so activation record for crashes. Paul Bertorelli has a good youtube video with the data. here’s my rationale:

- if I crash really really hard, the ELT will probably be destroyed too, along with me. no rush to find the site
- if i have a survivable crash, the ELT may or may not activate depending on a lot of factors. If I have an additional PLB on me with GPS, I can send an alert to find me. slightly improved redundancy over 406 mHz ELT mounted in the plane.
- either/ both can be activated manually in the air before you arrive on the ground.
- PLB is portable among different planes/vehicles. it’s registered to you personally, not to an airframe.
- with ADS-B onboard, i’m already leaving a flight trail for anyone to access near real time.

You don’t have to have a subscription for most PLB’s to do basic emergency locator function. they work just like a 406 mHz ELT in basic mode by sending GPS coordinates to the satellites overhead. if you want all the other features for communication, you need the subscription version, but if you’re happy with the level of functionality of a 406 mHz ELT, you’re good to go.

in summary, the 121.5 ELT meets the legal requirement for an ELT (for now anyway) otherwise i agree it’s not very effective in the real world. The combination of a 406mHz PLB and ADS-B tracking are a huge improvement for real world search and rescue.

OTOH, if my flying was regularly into remote areas (west, Alaska, etc) i would probably do both the 406mHz ELT and a PLB, I fly almost exclusively in east/midwest areas with good radio and radar coverage.
 
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Cardiff,

Here are a few facts to consider. 121.5 satellite monitoring was discontinued about 15 years ago. The comments that nobody is listening should be revised to say RCC isn’t listening. Why? Because an large proportion of 121.5 beacons were false alarms and those beacons have no differentiation for who’s sending it so no accountability. 406s are registered to the owner and N number so when a beacon is sending, not only can the RCC pinpoint the location to about 20 meters but they know who’s airplane is sending the signal. The first action RCC takes in beacon response is to make a few phone calls to your registered contacts to validate the beacon may be a real emergency. A few of us have inadvertently set off 406 beacons and got a phone call to check on us. In my two mistakes RCC already knew where I was. Once at Lake Hood and once inside my Wolf Lake hangar. Pretty cool. What would they have done had it been 121.5? Nothing. At least not until they had a missing or overdue airplane report. That’s also true if an airliner picks up a 121.5 beacon. From 35,000 feet that bbeacon could be originating anywhere in about half of Alaska or 2/3 of the lower 48. They won’t go looking unless they have corroborating reports with a smaller area of interest.

An Inreach has a 406 capability that’s monitored by a third party contractor. Not as good as a 406ELT but better than nothing.

Without GPS the RCC can identify your location in about 20 minutes. With GPS enabling they know precisely where you are within 45 seconds. Handy if the plane burns or sinks. Not a big deal otherwise since they won’t launch a rescue effort for at least 30-45 minutes. By regulation 406s have a panel switch for the pilot to activate the beacon before a crash or after a no-beacon accident. When you think an accident is likely? Flip that switch.

Alaska’s RCC flies Pave Hawk helicopters. Precision Avionics Vectoring Equipment is what PAVE stands for. That precision equipment does not included 121.5 homing capability. They rely on 406.
 
Here are a few facts to consider....

Does RCC have any jurisdiction or function outside Alaska? That RCC stopped monitoring would likely be of little interest to someone based in Oregon.

What is important to anyone in any state, or even in any country, is that Cospas-Sarsat no longer monitors 121.5.

Some people may be forgetting that 121.5 is the designated emergency voice communication frequency. The requirement to monitor 121.5 for emergency voice traffic didn't go away when ELT monitoring was dropped by Cospas-Sarsat.

How are you going to talk to that F-16 that just intercepted you. 121.5 MHz.
 
There's still the option for voice on 121.5 MHz. Aircraft or handheld radio to overflying aircraft. Just another tool. When I had the stack I'd put it in #2 flying around Alaska. Had to respond only once to a PA-18 that had exited a river on floats. No one hurt but I did contact someone to help him get it back floating.

Gary
 
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