January 24, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
Help for downed aircraft in Alaska could arrive sooner under a new program that will send distress messages including GPS coordinates from participating pilots’ satellite tracking devices directly to flight service stations, where they would be matched with active VFR flight plans.
The new Enhanced Special Reporting Service (eSRS) could cut emergency response time down significantly by pinpointing the location where rescuers should focus efforts “instead of searching along an entire route when a flight becomes overdue,” said a Jan. 22 letter to airmen announcing the program.
The FAA encouraged pilots and aircraft owners who use Spot and Spidertracks tracking devices to participate in the program for VFR flights in Alaska. Other makes of devices will be added to the program as they become available and undergo testing.
The FAA said it will not actively track flights participating in eSRS, but when a distress message is generated, flight service will receive the coordinates of the aircraft’s position, enabling the more efficient response.
Devices usable under the program augment search-and-rescue efforts, but do not eliminate the need to have an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) on board an aircraft.
AOPA and the Alaska Airmen’s Association have worked closely with the FAA on eSRS for two years, providing feedback and participating in testing, said Tom George, AOPA’s Alaska regional manager.
“This is welcome news. Satellite tracking devices have come down in price in recent years, making them more popular with pilots,” George said. “By integrating the call for help with a flight plan, this program should expedite launching a rescue operation, and may reduce the search time associated with an overdue flight plan.”
The program builds on the FAA’s established Special Reporting Service, which helps track aircraft over mountains or water by maintaining frequent radio contact, the FAA said.
More information on the program may be found on the FAA’s Alaska Flight Service Program Web page.
Aircraft and Avionics,
Pilot Safety and Skills,
The House has passed a bill requiring the TSA to consult stakeholders, including general aviation representatives, before making major changes to security policy.
Your mission: Fly with eight F-15s to the Philippines, rejoin, refuel with air tankers, engage an unknown number of Red Air fighters, refuel again, and then return home to Okinawa. And fly with radio silence up to the first contact with the Red Air fighters.
The Aviation Safety Reporting System is a voluntary safety reporting program that allows airmen to make anonymous reports to the government about issues encountered in aviation, with anonymity allowing the airman to be candid–even when their actions may have been a violation of the regulations.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.