ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby ghostflyer » Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:38 am

I have a true story to,tell regarding the 406 ELT. A very close friend had a Texas Taildragger and trying to impress the new girl friend took her on a week end trip out to the opal field s in outback Australia . They are about 350 nm from the coastal cities. Tent, food, WINE, and so forth was thrown in the back of the aircraft The first night out there around 1.00am , finishing off a bottle of red and other things ,, there was a WOP,WOP , noise approaching and the tent was lit up
Like day light . Overhead was a Huey helicopter.it landed and 4 guys got out asking if they were in trouble . What had happened the new girl friend had collected the 406 ELT wrapped up in a fly set not knowing what it was ,put it with the camping gear and had inadvertently activated it.
This search and rescue helicopter had travelled 350miles out and the 350 miles back . Both coped a fine each. Note.. no mobile phones out there and “maybe “ see a light on the horizon at night . Peter could never live that down .
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby gahorn » Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:31 pm

Well...that's just another example of how ELTs do not accomplish the task for which they are intended....and therefore not the correct solution to the problem.

The problem: A US Congressman goes missing on a personal flight and is never found.

The Lousy Solution: US Congress causes regulatory agency FAA to require ELTs on all aircraft... except airliners, certain business/corporate airplanes, and govt/military...IE, small private planes must install and maintain a defective system... but gov't is not required to service that system or maintain a listening-watch. What is wrong with that plan, do you suppose?

The Russians maintain a listening watch with a satellite but not the Western World.... so the Western World requires western small planes to include location-information with their ELT broadcasts so the Russians can let authorities know the whereabouts of the ELT signal... which more often than not... is a FALSE alert.
No matter.... REquire small airplanes to continue this defectively-designed/malfunctioning system under threat of prosecution by the regulatory agency who does not monitor the system.

My own Mother's childhood friend...a Mr. Williams... one of the founders of the C.A.F.... picked up his airplane from annual inspection in Eastern Arkansas and flew it towards his home field in Western Arkansas with a planned fuel stop at Hot Springs, AR. He never arrived but an ELT broadcast a signal for 4 days. Satellites picked it up and SAR was sent out to look... and they could not find it. It was finally decided that the signal was being generated by an airplane on the field at Hot Springs, AR but the particular airplane could not be located because "anomalies" of the signal bouncing around in the airport hangars caused SAR to believe the offending airplane ELT was hangared such that the signal could not be reliably located due to obstructions/metal-hangar-walls/etc. In other words...they KNEW where the ELT was within a very small area ...and were still unable to find it.

After almost a week, landscaping crews trimming the brush found Mr. Williams dead in his C-210 on/in the brushy hillside on short final inside the airport boundary fence.

SAR personnel know that fence-lines can carry the signals along the fenceline and into canyons that defy tracking. The number of "saves" attributed to ELTs are miniscule compared to the false-signals, wasted efforts and money spent on the "system". The AOPA formerly opposed ELTs... and expensive avionics systems imposed on small airplanes ... but now the Aviation Organization Promoting Avioncs-sales is all on-board with whatever unproven, expensive system the regulatory agency FAA implements at their own instigation.

I recently discovered the Ameri-King AD note that drove that company completely out of business. It seems that less than 75 ELTs out of over 14,000 units failed to pass their annual tests (required of all ELTs made.) This number of AmeriKing unit failures is apparently typical of all manufacturers units... but AmeriKing has apparently been singled-out for extinction. (I think I know why... I'll say so later.)
What does the AD note require?
After much bally-hoo it merely requires the testing of existing units using the same tests as ALL mfr's units must undergoe annually per FAR 91.207.... IE., check the battery and dates and test for a broadcast-signal after tripping the G-switch (usually by jarring the unit such as by throwing a football forward and arresting the throw). IF all goes well..return the unit to service for another 12 months.
The AD note repeats this under guise of an official Airworthiness Directive....but because they've been chosen for scrutiny...they are restricted by FAA from making repairs or servicing their units in any way. The AmeriKing lawyer protested by stating that the AD note is 1- repetitive of a test already required by FAR 91.207... 2- returns working units to service, but removes non-complant units from service (same as any other mfr's units that fail), BUT 3- Prohibits AmeriKing from repairing or servicing ELTs of their own manufacture. This is despite the fact that FAA has already approved the AmeriKing product and certified it as meeting design requirements, IE, TSO. Despite FAAs declaration that AmeriKing meets TSO--they are prohibited from doing business. This means they cannot even sell batteries to support their units. This effectively drives them out of business.
WHY did FAA single out ONE mfr'r...AmeriKing? Their ELTs did not fail at any rate higher than any other mfr'r ...but other Mfr's are not mentioned in the AD and are not prohibited from continuing business! Airplane owners who have AmeriKing ELTs can no longer keep them in service because batteries are not available.
Under the rules, this means AmeriKing owners must replace their ELTs and the new ELTs (by FAR) MUST BE 406 UNITS!

A-HA! NOW we know what the real-deal IS! Since most owners are quite happy to keep their old 121.5/243 units in service until they die natural deaths.... FAA must find a way to SPEED UP THE PROCESS by singling out a mfr'r and prevent them from providing batteries!

What I am wondering is.... why can't an owner produced part... an ELT battery mfr'd by reverse engineering... be used to continue the service life of an otherwise operational ELT? AND.... WHY is a regulatory agency singling out a mfr'r for purposeful demise?

Without additonal information or insight... it seems to me to be an illegal intent on the part of FAA and I'm concerned about it.... which is the similar concern I have regarding ADS-B for small aircraft which have NO INTENTION of operating at Class C airports but wish to operate at small airports underlying the Mode-C veil.... airplanes which already have Mode-C transponders which Mode-C air traffic controllers (by definition) have radar that can confirm those small airplanes are not in Class-C airspace. FAA is going to FORCE them to be ADS-B compliant without reason or purpose!

AOPA is all on-board with this system.... something the OLD AOPA would have supported small airplane owners in a protest against regulations which require the purchase and maintenance of expensive and unnecessary equipment. Not the new Avionics Organization Promoting Avionic-sales!

ELTs don't save lives. 406 ELTs fail to save lives at about the same rate as the older units. Why are owners being forced to buy them and whly are small businesses being forced out of their livelihoods by a regulatory agency who does not support the SAR portion of the system they impose on small owners?
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby ghostflyer » Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:40 pm

I think we should continue this conversation at the bar in Cody , oh you are shouting the beers. :lol:
However it is a sad fact that the manufactures and FAA,CASA, ERASA, CAA so forth have failed to communicate to the aviation world the total potential of ADS-B and 406 ELT,s . This one reason why people can not see all the advantages of new technology and see it as only regulating their activities. Murphy,s law also applies here.plus the skies are getting more crowded everywhere and flyers are now pushing more into the unknown areas.
Last edited by ghostflyer on Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby Aryana » Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:58 pm

George, you make so many good points that make me even more certain about my decision to operate my own PLB and safety plan.
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby bagarre » Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:15 pm

In the aviation community, is it still a tinfoil hat or does one wear an aluminum fedora instead?
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby gahorn » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:33 pm

cessna170bdriver wrote:If you think that an ELT should be optional equipment, then you might as well keep your 121.5 model, because the chances of it helping someone find you are somewhere between slim and none. My 121.5 ELT got lost in the shuffle after the accident at Creve Coeur, so I opted to go with a 406 replacement. I don’t have a position source for it but at least someone will know I’m down. I went with the ACK brand.


Until reading your post Miles,.... I didn't realize that the installation was allowed to skip the GPS inputs. According to the installation manual, the 406 ELT which is not supplied GPS position input can be located within 2 miles after approx 2 passes of the satellite... which is only a few hours. With GPS input the location can be as close as 300 feet. (They'd still likely have missed Mr. Williams. The ELT signals were already known to be ON the airport and Numerous aircraft overflew his crash site and landed on his intended runway only a hundred feet away and yet no one saw his crashed C-210.)
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby c170b53 » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:41 pm

George for President :D
I’d buy you a beer too but I like you Ameri-king case so much, guess I’ll owe a case for your Dodge cooler and we can carry on where we left off solving world peace :D
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby gahorn » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:44 pm

c170b53 wrote:George for President :D
I’d buy you a beer too but I like you Ameri-king case so much, guess I’ll owe a case for your Dodge cooler and we can carry on where we left off solving world peace :D


I thought we were admiring whirled-peas!
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby TFA170 » Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:33 am

The decision to go to 406 was driven by IMO and ICAO, not FAA - who, as the respective international governing bodies, are responsible for safety on the sea and in the air. The US is a signatory to both IMO and ICAO and generally complies with requirements. Since SARSAT/COSPAS is not owned by the US, we are vulnerable to their decision to cease monitoring 121.5 & 243.0.

However, most airliners still monitor 121.5 on COMM2, and virtually all military still monitor both 121.5 and 243.0 multiple ways (COMM2 and dual-band mil-spec radios). Many transport category military aircraft can DF either/both of these as well. Finally, most military aircraft ELTs are still 121.5/243.0 - very few are 406 (as of a few years ago when I retired).

I have done one search for a downed aircraft and the coordinates I got from SARSAT from a 243.0 beacon were questionable at best. The crash was in rugged terrain and the signal was bouncing around quite a bit and I walked out the door with 3 different sets of coordinates. But the reality is, without the GPS position the 406 brings, this is true for any crash in significant terrain - including 406 w/o GPS. So, the 406 beacon transition is more about GPS positioning than frequency congestion, IMO.

My military aircraft was able to DF both and I gave ATC bearings for 121.5 beacons frequently. I always heard them contacting other military traffic in the area for additional assistance...so triangulation is about as good as SARSAT w/o GPS. And it would seem ATC is still listening to both...
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby gahorn » Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:40 pm

I am not disagreeing with your comment, Richard... but it's FAA...not ICAO ...which requires US operators to be ELT equipped and it's FAA that requires older units be replaced with 406 units. Your experience in DF locating demonstrates how ineffective the system is even with the advent of 406 and GPS. With the PLB and other systems available which have demonstrated better effectiveness, FAA should allow operators to make those choices in lieu of the ineffective ELT requirement.

If FAA requires US operators to be ELT equipped... then shouldn't it at least be incumbent upon FAA (or other US govt agency) to effectively monitor the system? How much sense would it make...and how would we feel if the IFR required VOR/LOC/GS system were not monitored/maintained?
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby TFA170 » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:08 pm

Here's how I see the FAA decision: In order to participate in SARSAT/COSPAS, you have to have 406 ELTs since 2009 or so. (In truth, they extended 121.5 & 243.0 for a short period, but I do believe they're no longer monitored by SARSAT/COSPAS at all.) Clearly, the FAA is the "enforcement arm" and "decision maker" for the US, however, ICAO and IMO were the drivers of the decision. The FAA didn't decide to go to 406 just because, they did it to be able to participate in SARSAT/COSPAS and not have to create a new system to monitor existing 121.5/243.0 ELTs.

The international community is getting harder and harder to deal with regarding exceptions. Once upon a time, many nations had many exceptions to ICAO standards, but unless you're operating a state aircraft (official, gov't, DoD, etc), exceptions are few and far between anymore. There has been a slow movement away from all-US standards to ICAO standards worldwide. Once upon a time, the US was the gold standard and other countries wanted to emulate us. More and more these other countries look to the UN, and by extension ICAO (and IMO) to determine what the standard is. As this has happened, ICAO's influence has grown.

Just as the FAA is "forcing us" to use the international flight plan for domestic flights, so too are they requiring new ELT to be 406 equipped - it's to be in compliance with ICAO standards. We do not own the SARSAT system - NOAA is the agent here in the US for interacting with the system, which is international, and, as you pointed out earlier in the thread, primarily Russian satellites (although there are more international ones now, I think). The FAA does not have the authority to "run" SARSAT/COSPAS in any way that I'm aware of.

Yep, any LOS RF transmission will bounce around in the terrain, and any LOS RF transmission can be triangulated - none, 121.5, 243.0, 406 (stand-alone) or even 2828HF, are is as good as a GPS position transmitted to the RCC who will conduct the SAR. The 406+GPS is the best solution if you want to be found quickly. The SAR I was on was with a 243.0 ELT on a military aircraft in the mountains of Albania, so it does not really say much about 406+GPS, but does say something about how quickly the SARSAT system was able to get us coordinates vs me trying to triangulate with my DF. In truth, I saw the burning wreckage on NVGs once I was close and didn't really use the coordinates for much other than an initial direction to fly towards...

At the end of the day, rescues are a fraction of a percentage of the sheer volume of flights safely conducted every day. When you look at it from a percentage, it doesn't make a lot of sense to spend money duplicating the efforts of SARSAT/COSPAS for purely US operations. Besides, the law of unintended consequences says we'd likely only invite even more government intrusion into our operations, cost us more in terms of tax dollars to own/operate/maintain, and end up with a system that is purely duplicative solely to have our own. I say we piggyback on SARSAT/COSPAS...but that means 406 ELTs (and GPS if you want any increased capability).

If I were king, however, I'd agree with you. To paraphrase a common theme from my old riding days, 'let those who fly decide'. If I want to go out with nothing, let me. If I want to fly with a legacy ELT that may not be satellite monitored and depend on airliners and military traffic for triangulation, let me. If I want SARSAT to find me, let me put a 406+GPS in. If I want to use a PLB, let me...
...but the FAA generally doesn't work that way. And, of course, passenger carrying part 121/125/135 operations would likely be mandated to have 406+GPS ELT, but for part 91, let us figure it out for ourselves.
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby gahorn » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:07 am

We are in agreement as to your conclusion. And to be clear, I am not disagreening that the 406 system as being a better, more useful choice than it's predecessor. I understand that it's a better system for GPS location purposes and ICAO standards also have their place.
My heartburn is in the FAA mandating private operators to have an ELT like a 121.5/243 system they do not themselves support with appropriate response-equipment. If they don't support it...I shouldn't be required to maintain it. IMO
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby TFA170 » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:41 am

Many things the FAA does don't make sense. And many things they do, they do and hide behind "safety" - be it our safety, or those folks on the ground, but more often, paying passengers on part 121 airlines...which tends to trickle down to us in GA.

The old saw about, "if it saves just one life..." seems to be part and parcel of many decisions made at government levels...doesn't have to make sense. :lol:

I'd love a more hands-off FAA - let me take the risks I choose to take - but I think the fact that my plane might land on someone else's head is where they really get their fingers into us...
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby cfzxo » Thu Feb 15, 2018 7:14 am

George, this is my story about ELT's. about 5 years ago i had the misfortune of landing my 170 in about 3 ft of overflow on a mountain top about 45 min from home. Yes it went over on it's back with the ELT antenna buried under the plane. I crawled out, standing there looking what I had done, thought i had better call my wife and tell her that I was ok. this took all of 5 min or less, my wife answered the phone and asked me if I was okay because search and rescue had already called the house because my 406 had gone off. I had good cell reception on that high mountain lake so I quickly called them to tell them to stand down, as they were about to leave Comox and rescue me. They knew who I was the aircraft etc. as this unit is registered with the appropriate authority giving them all the information in the signal. I was more embarrassed but also relieved to know that my $ 1300.00 ELT worked so well. But I also know how screwed but these things are. Point in case was when I left the home strip one summer evening to fly to my job in Fort ST. James, I had been gone about half hour or so when the RCMP arrive at the door to inform my wife that they had a report of a beacon going off in out back yard. scared the hell out of my wife as I had just left. she had no way of contacting me. They searched around for a couple of hours, because they had coordinates.By then I called home to say that I had arrived at the Fort. It turns out that the RCMP had the wrong coordinates given to them and the problem was somewhere in the Yukon, french couple lost when hiking, PLB. not going to mention all the 121.5 problems over the years :D I have had good luck with mine the only time I tested it I didn't really need it. I believe we are not required to have the 406 here yet but I for one have and also have Spot for long isolated trips when flying north. But making it mandatory and not monitoring is totally stupid, 406 is monitored here but 121.5 isn't, that is my understanding. These are stories for Cody while checking out the Beer.
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Re: ELT Upgrade..?? ...or Not...??

Postby ghostflyer » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:22 pm

George is paying for the first shout of beers :lol: what I have been told and believe to a point that the worlds aviation has to Harmoniz with its regulations and structure. I am a big Fan of the FAA system and think the ERASA and CAA ,CASA and so forth should be more inclined towards the FAA system as % 70 of aircraft originated in the USA.
Now getting back to 406 sarga I was under the impression that the 406 units transmission transmit on the 406 frequency as the older units transmitting the 121.5 frequency did wander .
However the 406 freq is monitored in Singapore , England , Australia and Canada. This is due to the satellites position .
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