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CAP Talk  |  Operations  |  Tall Tales  |  Topic: Share Your ELT/EPIRB Chasing Stories
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Author Topic: Share Your ELT/EPIRB Chasing Stories  (Read 27405 times)
Pylon
Administrator

Posts: 5,155
Unit: NER-NH-038

Michael Kieloch, Marketing Communications & PR Leadership
« on: March 11, 2005, 01:07:16 PM »

Everybody has a salty story of how they chased around that elusive ELT or EPIRB signal, perhaps circling around for hours, or going right over the source several times, or just plain not being able to find the transmitter.
 


I know I've known of a few decent stories that came up in the debriefings/reports at Group staff meetings.  The most memorable for me is one where the call for the signal came in the afternoon.  An aircrew was at the airport quickly and picked up the signal as soon as they were aloft.  They figured it was back at the airport on the ramp, so they landed and checked around with a handheld DF.  However, there was no trace of the signal at the international airport.
 
So they got airborne again to immediately pick up the rather strong signal.  They checked a nearby semi-private airstrip and were still getting signals, so they landed and checked out the scene.  As soon as they landed, it disappeared on them again.   ::)   After talking to the people at the FBO, they discovered that apparently there was a seaplane at the local marina, so they decided to check that out.

Flying over the marina they were still getting signals, so they dispatched a ground team.  The GT drove up and confirmed that it was not the seaplane, but they were getting the signal on the ground.  With some handy DFing, they figured out it was in the marina.  However, none of the boats were looking like good candidates and it was difficult to pin down the direction of the signal.  Eventually, someone decided to check a dumpster and found a discarded EPIRB in an empty dumpster at the marina.   :P

Apparently the metal dumpster was bouncing the signal all around, not to mention being in a rather unlikely location to find it.  Made for an interesting story, though.   ;D
 
So what's your elusive ELT story?
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Michael F. Kieloch, Maj, CAP
Concord Composite Squadron, NH       
voopvoop
Recruit

Posts: 5

« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2005, 08:08:56 PM »

Two units that shall remain nameless went looking for an ELT for several days.  They gave up and the IC asked me if I could drive 1 1/2 to take over with a small team.  We drove to the front of a airport set up the L-PER and walked directly to a hanger.  A guy standing outside the next door to the hanger slapped his head and yelled "I just gave that Asswipe a new battery *for his ELT"  He unlocked the door to the hanger and we entered to see the most amazing mess I've ever seen.  A large car was suspended over our heads and the walls were covered with hundred (thousands?) of shoe boxes filled with various junk.  I looked at all this crap and said we are NEVER going to find it in this pile of crap.  My Lt said we just have to start somwhere.  She opened the first box looked in and said "Is this an ELT?"  At first I though no, not the right sort of shape but... It was!  And it was the one sending the offending signal.  I was SO happy.

Now the funny part is that the other two teams called me at home asking where I found it and what "trick" I used to find it so quickly.  *They never got close to the building - don't ask me why.  When I told them they got angry and really obnoxious.  Weird?!?!?
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SAR junkie
Recruit

Posts: 26

« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2005, 05:02:18 PM »

Well this one starts out at a meeting. We were doing emergency services that night i believe. we ended up at RJ Coremans place in Nicholasville thinking it was one of his private crafts. it turned out that it was at a hotel with the owner. it was in the back of his truck ::) . he had taken a hard landing and knew that it had gone off. so he took it out of the plane and turned it off. then put it in his truck. something in his truck hit it again so it started going off again. this thing was so old that the box it was in was rusting  :P . (not that interesting i know. my crew and i thought it was funny at the time)

another time we got called out at midnight and ended up in  Frankfort @ the boone national guard center. by the time we found the blackhawk it was in it was 330am. we had to get the first sgt. out of bed on memorial day morning @ 330am to come unlock the chopper so we could turn off the ELT. he was NOT happy. (actually a few weeks later we got called out again..and ended up with the SAME ELT on the SAME chopper.)

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C/MSgt Caliguiri
C/CC
Centenary Composite Squadron ~KY058~

search and rescue all the way!
MCreedKY214
Forum Regular

Posts: 164
Unit: GLR-001

« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2005, 11:13:18 PM »

Well this one starts out at a meeting. We were doing emergency services that night i believe. we ended up at RJ Coremans place in Nicholasville thinking it was one of his private crafts. it turned out that it was at a hotel with the owner. it was in the back of his truck ::) . he had taken a hard landing and knew that it had gone off. so he took it out of the plane and turned it off. then put it in his truck. something in his truck hit it again so it started going off again. this thing was so old that the box it was in was rusting  :P . (not that interesting i know. my crew and i thought it was funny at the time)


You should have been up on our end after y'all told us that Corman's place was clean. Our Becker was Tango Uniform, and once we got it nulled down even better, all we saw was that great big truck terminal next door to the motel. We figured we'd be up there highbirding all night while you cleared that place out!

By the way, thanks for helping out with our aircrew school the last 2 weekends. I didn't get a chance to thank you myself before you left. Flew 7.4 on highbird last Sunday, so I was absent for most of it.
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Col Matthew Creed, CAP
Skyray
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Posts: 576

Skyray.com
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2005, 12:18:45 PM »

This one is pretty old, taking place as it did just at the rise of HazMat awareness among law enforcement agencies.  We had a very elusive EPIRB that seemed to be moving, and a major that was phenomenal in tracking them.  He called on the radio and asked for state police help in stopping a moving van that seemed to be the source of the signal.  In trying to explain what we wanted, the radio operator told the state police dispatcher that we were trying to track down a "device" in a truck that was "radiating."  Shortly after that, the major was confronted with a full nuclear response team, complete with HazMat suits and decontamination gear.
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Doug Johnson - Miami

Always Active-Sometimes a Member
pixelwonk
Alt-F4 pilot
Salty & Seasoned Contributor

Posts: 1,108

« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2005, 12:35:22 PM »

This one is pretty old, taking place as it did just at the rise of HazMat awareness among law enforcement agencies. We had a very elusive EPIRB that seemed to be moving, and a major that was phenomenal in tracking them. He called on the radio and asked for state police help in stopping a moving van that seemed to be the source of the signal. In trying to explain what we wanted, the radio operator told the state police dispatcher that we were trying to track down a "device" in a truck that was "radiating." Shortly after that, the major was confronted with a full nuclear response team, complete with HazMat suits and decontamination gear.

hmmm...  you're a major, aren't you Skyray?   :D
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Skyray
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Posts: 576

Skyray.com
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2005, 01:54:11 PM »


hmmm...  you're a major, aren't you Skyray?   :D

Yes, or no, depending on how you look at it, but it wasn't I.  Vic was his first name, and I am having a senior moment over his last name.  He burned out and disappeared in the early 90s.  He was almost as good with an L'Per as I am ;D
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Doug Johnson - Miami

Always Active-Sometimes a Member
biZarre
Recruit

Posts: 14

Minnesota Wing Cadet Programs
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2005, 02:23:34 PM »

It's been a few years since I've been involved in a really odd ELT search, but back when I was a member on the other side of the "cheddar curtian" (WI) our squadron tracked down a carrier only signal coming from a Bart Simpson Video game at the  Burlington Chocolate Fest. 

And then there was the other carrier only signal coming from an electic fence on an Amish farm.  Go figure. 
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Doug Kilian, Lt Col, CAP
Director of Cadet Programs
Minnesota Wing
pixelwonk
Alt-F4 pilot
Salty & Seasoned Contributor

Posts: 1,108

« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2005, 02:29:35 PM »

It's been a few years since I've been involved in a really odd ELT search, but back when I was a member on the other side of the "cheddar curtian" (WI) our squadron tracked down a carrier only signal coming from a Bart Simpson Video game at the Burlington Chocolate Fest.

And then there was the other carrier only signal coming from an electric fence on an Amish farm. Go figure.

Ah yes... the Bart Simson game.  I remember Lt Col Trossen (then Capt) from MESS telling me that story the first time I visited a CAP squadron. I've yet to have one THAT challenging, however I've found a few practice beacons placed along looooonnnnng metal fencelines by heinous Ground Branch Directors.
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Skyray
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Posts: 576

Skyray.com
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2005, 05:04:01 PM »

Quote
I've yet to have one THAT challenging, however I've found a few practice beacons placed along looooonnnnng metal fencelines by heinous Ground Branch Directors.

My second favorite trick.  First favorite was to put a directional antenna on a Pointer, and aim the directional antenna at a hundred and fifty foot tower on the old blimp base that was literally covered with antennae.  At least one of those many antennae would resonate at 121.775, and the ground team would be faced with a df signal that could not be resolved.  Even if they got up there, which was nearly impossible, then they had a signal coming in from somewhere else. Diabolical.

What fun we had.
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Doug Johnson - Miami

Always Active-Sometimes a Member
arajca
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Posts: 4,169

« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2005, 08:03:40 PM »

People think in two dimensions. A simple trick is to  put it in a tree, out of sight.

I've watched several GT's circle a tree (usually more than once) and figure their 'Lper was out of whack and never looked up.
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Skyray
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Posts: 576

Skyray.com
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2005, 11:19:37 PM »

People think in two dimensions. A simple trick is to  put it in a tree, out of sight.

I've watched several GT's circle a tree (usually more than once) and figure their 'Lper was out of whack and never looked up.

You're almost as rotten as I am.  Another variation of that is we have an expressway access ramp that rises about fifty feet and then makes a serpentine lift turn before it joins the expressway.  Right under it is a small strip mall, and wouldn't you know it, the last store before you get to the overpass right of way has rooftop parking.  More than one Pointer has ended up on that roof, where you are looking up from the street below, and down from the access ramp.
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Doug Johnson - Miami

Always Active-Sometimes a Member
SarDragon
Global Moderator

Posts: 10,081
Unit: NAVAIRPAC

« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2005, 05:27:25 AM »

Desert environment. Practice beacon with a small Yagi attached, pointing down a dry wash about 10 feet deep, pointing north. Minimal access from the west, needing 4WD and a good driver. Only other access is from the south on a lane and a half wide packed road that's almost unnoticeable from the paved road. Took 3 teams almost three hours to find it. The best hits were up in the hills in the west, where LOS was over the bank, and from the north, where the Yagi pointed. Didn't get a real strong hit from the south until we were within 100 ft.
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Dave Bowles
Maj, CAP
AT1, USN Retired
Mitchell Award (unnumbered)
C/WO, CAP, Ret
Skyray
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Posts: 576

Skyray.com
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2005, 01:46:30 PM »

So SarDragon, were you searching, or the diabolical brain behind putting it there?

That sounds like an ideal situation for an airplane technique that once pinpointed a "really" for me within twenty five feet.  Station passage is sometimes a little hard to determine with an L-Per.  Never used one, but I suspect the super equipment you guys are using now is not much different.  So you set up a track, preferrably on a meridian or a parallel (tracking straight north and south or east and west).  Get station passage, then fly about two miles away from your baseline and set up a track on the perpendicular.  When your new track crosses the original track, you are directly overhead.  With careful navigation and today's enhanced GPS equipment, you can literally get within feet.  Then a good map or chart will show you how to get there.

That brings me to another war story.  Ground teams instintively know that the beacon is going to be close to access.  Even an airplane will deviate off what the L-Per is telling him to follow a road, at least on a practice mission.  Maybe ten years ago, I set a beacon for Wayne Roshaven, whom I believe is now doing something for Georgia in the Appalachians.  But at the time, he was down here in swamp country, and his instructions to me were to make it tough.  It was simple enough, I drove out to where there were no roads in the Everglades, unlimbered my trusty canoe, and paddled six miles straight out from the nearest road.  Took the airplanes several hours to find us, and we didn't see a ground team all day.
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Doug Johnson - Miami

Always Active-Sometimes a Member
Pylon
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Michael Kieloch, Marketing Communications & PR Leadership
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2005, 01:51:00 PM »

Quote from: Skyray
  It was simple enough, I drove out to where there were no roads in the Everglades, unlimbered my trusty canoe, and paddled six miles straight out from the nearest road.  Took the airplanes several hours to find us, and we didn't see a ground team all day.

Did you at least bring a fishing rod?  ;)
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Michael F. Kieloch, Maj, CAP
Concord Composite Squadron, NH       
Skyray
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Skyray.com
« Reply #15 on: June 25, 2005, 02:02:46 PM »

Quote from: Skyray
  It was simple enough, I drove out to where there were no roads in the Everglades, unlimbered my trusty canoe, and paddled six miles straight out from the nearest road.  Took the airplanes several hours to find us, and we didn't see a ground team all day.

Did you at least bring a fishing rod?  ;)

Actually, I did.  And a picnic basket, and a friend.  Didn't catch anything though.
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Doug Johnson - Miami

Always Active-Sometimes a Member
ctrossen
Member

Posts: 82
Unit: GLR-WI-002

« Reply #16 on: June 25, 2005, 02:36:07 PM »

It's been a few years since I've been involved in a really odd ELT search, but back when I was a member on the other side of the "cheddar curtian" (WI) our squadron tracked down a carrier only signal coming from a Bart Simpson Video game at the Burlington Chocolate Fest.

And then there was the other carrier only signal coming from an electric fence on an Amish farm. Go figure.

Ah yes... the Bart Simson game.  I remember Lt Col Trossen (then Capt) from MESS telling me that story the first time I visited a CAP squadron. I've yet to have one THAT challenging, however I've found a few practice beacons placed along looooonnnnng metal fencelines by heinous Ground Branch Directors.

Well, since Doug and Tedd brought it up...

We were running a practice SAR at the time. I was pulling double duty - the first half of the day I was supposed to be an observer and in the afternoon I was going to be CUD (Comm Unit Director, back before we went fully to ICS positions). This was back WIWAC ('94, in fact), so the details are a might fuzzy. As I recall, we diverted and aircraft to the Burlington, WI area after we got the call from AFRCC. All the aircrew got was a carrier-only signal on 121.5, with occasional bursts of what they thought was a garbled voice. So we got a ground team together from those of us at the mission base that could get away and supplemented that with another team already in the field.

By the time we got into the area, the aircrew had pretty well narrowed the signal down, and they were sure they'd heard a voice through the static. Unfortunately, the spot they narrowed it down to was downtown Burlington, WI. At the height of the Burlington Chocolate Fest, an annual shindig put on in conjunction with the Nestle plant there in town. And we're not talking just some little street festival. No, this is a full-blown production in a park by the river, complete with music, food and a midway, with all manner of rides and such fun.

Between the two teams, we had three L-Pers and an air-band handheld, so we split into four groups to see if we could track this thing down.

(Mental note: EVERY midway ride that uses electricity in any way puts out wideband noise. Especially those bumber cars!)

Cut to the chase: eventually we all agree on what it was. A faulty (and/or poorly grounded) distribution box at the back of the arcade tent. And right on the other side of the box? A Simpson's arcade game! Complete with Bart occasionally yelling "help!" Doh!


Can't say much about the Amish electric fence, since I wasn't there. But it was the same aircrew that found the video game... They were over in Michigan Wing helping out with a missing aircraft search and got tasked to track down this intermittent signal that kept popping up out in the middle of nowhere. So they found it. And it turned out to be an electric fence... on an Amish farm.


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Chris Trossen, Lt Col, CAP
Agency Liaison
Wisconsin Wing
pixelwonk
Alt-F4 pilot
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Posts: 1,108

« Reply #17 on: June 25, 2005, 02:40:54 PM »

Thanks for the story!  Nice to have you aboard CAPtalk, Chris.   :)
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SarDragon
Global Moderator

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Unit: NAVAIRPAC

« Reply #18 on: June 25, 2005, 03:51:58 PM »

So SarDragon, were you searching, or the diabolical brain behind putting it there? [redacted]
I was with one of the ground teams. We were using L-pers, nothing fancy. No aerial involvement on this one. It was part of a small SAREX we had in Jan 2002. I'm still learning the diabolical tricks.
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Dave Bowles
Maj, CAP
AT1, USN Retired
Mitchell Award (unnumbered)
C/WO, CAP, Ret
ctrossen
Member

Posts: 82
Unit: GLR-WI-002

« Reply #19 on: June 25, 2005, 10:50:04 PM »

Thanks for the story!  Nice to have you aboard CAPtalk, Chris.   :)
Indeed. Man's got to have a place to hang his hat after a long hard day in the Imperial service, after all. ;-)

Which brings me to the next war story. This one from but a couple of years ago (long after you left cheddarland, Doug)...

I get a call from our wing Director of Emergency Services. Seems there's been this ELT going off in the Racine, WI vicinity for the past three days. He'd gone out the past two days with his unit to try to find the bugger, but they'd had no luck. So he wondered if I wanted a shot. He even offered up one of his Senior members to help out, since this was the middle of the morning and all by cadets were at school.

So, after a brief conversation with the on-call wing duty officer, I go get myself a UDF team consisting of myself, one of my senior members and the senior whose services were offered up (Capt. Michele-no-loner-Bizub Malinowski). And we drive on down to Racine.

Well, as it turns out, the problem on this, the THIRD day of what otherwise should have been a relatively simple ELT findit mission, was that the signal mysteriously "went away" before anyone could localize it. So we decided to speculate a bit on the way down. Now Michele's an electrical engineer (and Doug, someday you could probably recount the project y'all worked on back there in college), and while I'm nowhere near as qualified as her, I'm a comm-badge-with-star-and-wreath wearing senior member, so we're trying to figure out what the problem was...

But we get down to Racine and, low and behold, 'tain't much a problem figuring out where the signal's coming from. It's February in Wisconsin and there's a marina sitting along the river that has a couple of yards filled with boats up on blocks for the winter. So we pull in to the parking lot, I get out to talk to the marina people inside while my crack team sets up the L-Pers.

I get inside, only to see a friendly young Coast Guard Petty Officer talking to the young lass behind the counter. Yup, definitely in the right place. So the Petty Officer and I head back outside to start looking through the boats to find our EPIRB. But wait! Thar be problems... seems that in the time it took us to get out of the vehicle and hook up the sticks, the signal vanished.

Ahh, but not a problem for us... between the three of us CAPers, we've got two Spaatzes and an E.E. degree. This thing *couldn't* possibly just go away like that. It's got to be radiating *something*, right?

Well, no. Nothing. Nada. (Unfortunately, we were too smart for ourselves and kept trying to track a carrier that wasn't there for a while longer.) And after a good conversation with the CDO at the local Coast Guard station, it seems this thing was literally cutting out sometime between noon and 1pm each day, only to come back early in the morning. Strange...

Cut to the next morning, 'bout 0730. I get a call from the CDO. Seems the thing came back, and thankfully the Coast Guard district went "live" with the mission before AFRCC. So I get the team back together and go back out while our duty officer opens the mission back up with RCC. Head down to the marina and nail the bugger. And just like clockwork, just past noon the thing shuts off. Thankfully we were on the boat at the time. Hold the L-Per up to the EPIRB antenna, and for a few minutes you heard a *real* faint signal. 10 ft. away - NOTHING. After that, the thing just went completely silent.

Postscript - it was a brand new 406 MhZ EPIRB. The marina swears up and down the owner is the kind of guy who would absolutely register his beacon (he runs a fishing charter in the summer). So don't believe everything you hear, be it "this guy registers everying" or "we can tell you exactly who owns this beacon if it's registered."


(Double Postscript, though much shorter - This time I'm the IC and I send the Wing ES Officer and his team out on an ELT between Milwaukee and Racine (also with him the ground team belonging to the husband of the duty officer in the previous story, supported by one of my aircrews). After ranging far and wide, they finally localize the thing to Mitchell Field--the same place the ES Officer's team originated from (though 'bout 1/2 mile away). 'Twas the Harley Davidson Citation. Brand new 406 ELT. Carrier only, and *NOT* transmitting on 406.)
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Chris Trossen, Lt Col, CAP
Agency Liaison
Wisconsin Wing
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