NTSB issues recommendations in wake of Alaska crash

January 6, 2011

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 emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) and detailed yearly inspections of their mounting.

The pilot and four passengers, including former U.S. senator Ted Stevens, died when a 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 NTSB acknowledged that ELTs are already required to be inspected every 12 months by Federal Aviation Regulation 91.207, and that the inspections must include checking for “proper installation.” AOPA maintains that there is no need to duplicate this requirement, and that the FAA could better address the issue by providing those inspecting ELTs with additional information on properly inspecting the mounting.

The board was 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.