November 11, 2009
The International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) has submitted comments to an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) proposal to require 406-MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) on all aircraft that fly internationally. While this issue has little relevance for pilots who only fly within their country, the implications for international operations are significant.
"IAOPA has been working for years with ICAO to come to an agreement about ELT standards," said John Sheehan, IAOPA secretary general of IAOPA. "Prior to November 1994, no ICAO standard regarding carriage of ELTs existed; since then there have been several standards adopted by ICAO."
Existing ICAO requirements specify that ELT equipment is required on "aeroplanes operated on extended overwater flights...and on flights over designated land areas." The proposed standard requires that an automatic ELT be installed on all aircraft flying internationally after 1 July 2008, regardless of flight location.
IAOPA has concerns about the reliability of 406-MHz ELTs. "While the promise of improved alerting capability and reliability of the 406-MHz ELT is initially attractive, the efficacy of these units must be questioned," wrote Sheehan in IAOPA's comments to the ICAO proposal. "Sarsat [search-and-rescue satellite] statistics proudly proclaim search and rescue events assisted by emergency locating devices, yet they neglect to include the number of events in which either equipment or systems did not perform satisfactorily."
A device of similar capability to ELTs should be permitted as an alternative to the ELT requirement, suggests IAOPA. One example is personal locator beacons (PLB), which are more economical than ELTs.
IAOPA recommends that "existing and proposed ELT standards be held in abeyance until system performance requirements have been fully defined and approved," wrote Sheehan.
In addition, IAOPA recommends that new ELT requirements for international aircraft should not become effective until 1 February 2009, the date when Sarsat monitoring of 121.5-MHz ELTs is scheduled to cease. Also, small GA aircraft (less than 5,700 kg) should either be equipped with an ELT of any type when operated for extended international flights over water or in areas where survival equipment is required to be on board, or be equipped with any type of approved ELT or PLB.
IAOPA represents the interests of AOPA affiliates in 64 countries of the world, comprising more than 470,000 GA and aerial work pilots and aircraft operators. The council was formed in 1962 to provide a voice for GA in world aviation forums. GA encompasses four-fifths of all civil aircraft and two-thirds of all pilots worldwide. For more information, visit www.iaopa.org.
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