Canada's ELT mandate sparks concern among U.S. pilots

February 14, 2008

Canada’s ELT mandate sparks concern among U.S. pilots

By AOPA ePublishing staff

Will you make the switch?

You can help AOPA in its effort to keep flying affordable by letting us know what you think about the ELT issue. When did you first learn that satellites would no longer monitor 121.5 MHz after Feb. 1, 2009? Do you plan to switch to the newer ELT or other 406-MHz technology? Take our short survey, and we’ll be able to use the results in our advocacy efforts on your behalf.

As of Feb. 1, 2009, satellites will stop monitoring 121.5 MHz, one of the emergency frequencies for ELTs. This has sparked concern among some in the aviation industry and has caused Transport Canada to move forward with a rule that will require aircraft flying in Canada to be equipped with a 406-MHz ELT.

So far, the FAA has not given AOPA any indication that it will mandate a switch to the 406-MHz ELT.

“The FAA has the right approach—let pilots equip their aircraft with the ELT that best meets their flying needs,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs, noting that air traffic control, the military, and pilots will still monitor the frequency. “AOPA is going to propose options to Transport Canada to allow U.S.-registered aircraft flying in Canada to be exempt from the rule.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) recently filed a letter of dissent regarding the proposed rule, claiming that Transport Canada reneged on its commitment that it would not mandate 406-MHz ELTs. COPA’s position emphasizes the need to harmonize Canadian regulations with those in the United States so that travel between the two countries will not be impeded. COPA has been working with Transport Canada on this issue for 10 years.

AOPA and COPA believe that the benefits of advanced ELTs must be balanced against the cost and needs of the individual aircraft owner. AOPA will alert members when the proposed Canadian rule opens for public comment. Those who fly into Canada will be encouraged to submit comments and explain how a requirement for a 406-MHz ELT could curtail their flights into the country.

“Pilots should understand that 121.5-MHz ELTs will still meet the FAA’s regulations for emergency locator transmitters after February 2009,” said Hackman. “However, pilots should study the differences between the two types of ELTs and factor in the cost and other options, such as personal locater beacons, to determine which will best meet their needs and the FAA’s regulatory requirements.

“It’s just like comparing old radios to new—you compare the cost of the units and the benefits they provide, consider the type and location of flying you do, and think about how it will work with other equipment you have in the aircraft.”

Begin your research on ELTs with Steven W. Ells’ AOPA Pilot article, “Getting a Better Signal” and AOPA’s Emergency Locator Transmitter regulatory brief.

February 14, 2008