AOPA: NTSB Emergency Locator Transmitter Recommendation Already Covered by FAA Regulation

June 1, 2011

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association believes that the Federal Aviation Administration already has the mechanism, in the form of annual emergency locator transmitter (ELT) inspection requirements, to address a new recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board regarding ELT installation.

Following the Aug. 9 crash of a de Havilland Turbo Otter in Alaska that killed five, the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended a review of mounting requirements for ELTs and detailed yearly inspections of their mounting. However the NTSB acknowledged that the federal aviation regulations already require that ELTs be inspected every 12 months (14 CFR 91.207) and that the inspections must include checking for "proper installation."

"There is no need to duplicate this requirement," said Rob Hackman, AOPA’s vice president of regulatory affairs. "We believe the FAA could better address the issue by providing those inspecting ELTs with additional information on properly inspecting the mounting."

In the accident that prompted the NTSB recommendation, the pilot and four passengers including former U.S. senator Ted Stevens died when the DHC-3T crashed in mountainous tree-covered terrain 10 miles from Aleknagik, Alaska.

The NTSB found that the 406 MHz ELT on the airplane activated, but "became dislodged from its mounting tray, detached from its antenna, and failed to transmit radio signals to alert personnel of the downed airplane." Volunteer airborne search personnel reached the aircraft and four survivors nearly five hours after the crash.

The board, whose investigation is ongoing, has so far been unable to determine why the ELT separated from its mounting but expressed concern that similar ELTs may not be properly mounted. It also recommended that the FAA determine if the mounting requirements and tests in the technical standard order (TSO) for ELTs are adequate and, if necessary, that it revise the requirements.