AOPA opposes FCC proposal to ban 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters

April 5, 2013

FREDERICK, MD -- The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has told the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) that it vigorously opposes the commission’s plan to prohibit the future use of emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) that use a 121.5 MHz signal. The proposal will have a negative impact on aviation safety and AOPA told the FCC it should immediately abandon its proposed rule changes and defer to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on matters of aviation safety.

ELT’s using the 121.5 MHz frequency are estimated to be installed in more than 200,000 general aviation aircraft. In the event of an accident, these devices transmit a distress signal on a radio frequency to alert air traffic control and other nearby aircraft to the location of the distressed aircraft.

“The FCC’s proposed actions are unlawful and procedurally irregular, they conflict with FAA safety policy and laws, are economically unjustified under a cost-benefit analysis, and will freeze and stunt the development of future emergency technology,” AOPA said in comments to the FCC. 

By statute, an ELT must be installed in virtually every U.S.-registered civil aircraft.  However, on January 30, 2013, the FCC proposed to prohibit future sales of the 121.5 MHz ELTs and asked for input on whether to allow the units already installed to continue to be used.

The search and rescue community is seeking the ban and in doing so is attempting to force aircraft owners to discard perfectly functional units with new 406 MHz ELTs at a cost of $1,000 to $1,500 per airplane.  This will impose a total cost of $500 million on aircraft owners.

Furthermore, the association pointed out that the safety benefits of the 406 MHz models are minimal and short-lived since their use will be nullified as the FAA transitions to the Next Generation Air Traffic Control System and its associated use of Automatic Dependent Surveillance — Broadcast (ADS-B).

In 15-pages of comments to the FCC, AOPA’s vice president for regulatory affairs, Robert Hackman, noted that while the FCC was collecting comments on the proposed change, “docketed discussions - contrary to the proposed language of the FCC’s published notice - indicate that the FCC has already decided to ban 121.5 MHz ELTs regardless of the effect on aviation safety or of the costs on aircraft owners and small businesses.”

Despite the comment period coming to a close, the FCC has not provided the general aviation community a timeline as to when they would move forward with their ban on 121.5 MHz ELT’s should they chose to act against AOPA's recommendations.

AOPA’s comments to the FCC may be viewed at:
http://download.aopa.org/advocacy/130402-aopa-response-to-fcc-elt-proposal.pdf

Since 1939, AOPA has protected the freedom to fly for thousands of pilots, aircraft owners and aviation enthusiasts. With a membership base of nearly 400,000, AOPA is the largest aviation association in the world. With representatives based in Frederick, M.D., Washington, D.C., and seven regions across the United States, AOPA provides member services that range from advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels to legal services, flight planning products, safety programs and award-winning media products. To learn more, visit www.aopa.org. 

- AOPA -
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