July 20, 2010
AOPA ePublishing staff
A ban on 121.5 MHz ELTs? Not under the FAA’s watch.
The agency has officially stepped in with a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration requesting that the Federal Communication Commission withdraw its notice that would prohibit the “certification, manufacture, importation, sale, or continued use of 121.5 MHz ELTs.”
The FAA is following all of the steps necessary to ensure that the FCC’s notice does not get published in the Federal Register. Without being published in the Federal Register, the notice cannot go into effect. Some in the aviation industry have incorrectly stated an effective date of Aug. 1.
If the FCC rescinds its notice, the current threat of the ban on 121.5 MHz ELTs would end.
In support of its request that the FCC withdraw its notice, the FAA cited its study of the safety impact and cost-benefit analysis of requiring all aircraft to switch from 121.5 MHz ELTs to 406 MHz ELTs. The cost to equip more than 200,000 aircraft would near $500 million, the FAA said, adding that only 38,000 406 MHz ELTs have been voluntarily installed on aircraft.
“Based on the cost of replacing 121.5 MHz ELTs with 406 MHz ELTs, the rate of voluntary equipage by aircraft owners and operators with 406 MHz ELTs, and the use of [emergency position-indicating radio beacons] by pilots, the FAA has not sought authority from Congress to require the replacement of 121.5 MHz ELTs with 406 MHz ELTs.”
The FAA reiterated that it took the same stance with the NTSB, which had recommended that the agency seek the authority to mandate aircraft be equipped with 406 MHz ELTs.
“The ability of the aviation industry to continue the manufacture, importation, sale, and use of 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters is of utmost importance to the aviation community,” the FAA concluded, offering to work with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to ensure that the FCC’s request is rescinded.
AOPA has expressed its concerns to the FAA and FCC about the ban and continues to work with both groups to ensure that it does not go into effect. Immediately following the FCC’s proposed ban, AOPA reached out to the agency and the FAA to discuss the issue and coordinated with other aviation groups to form a united front. As Congress learned of the proposal, AOPA provided information about ELTs.
AOPA recognizes the benefits that can be derived from the advanced ELTs available today. However, the association has long held that the benefits of advanced ELTs must be balanced against cost and the needs of the individual aircraft owner. AOPA supports the installation of these more advanced ELTs on a voluntary basis, but maintains that decisions to replace an existing ELT should be left to the discretion of the aircraft owner. The association supports the education of pilots and aircraft owners as to the limits of 121.5 MHz ELTs and the benefits of 406-MHz units.
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