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Nomex Maximus
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« on: September 06, 2007, 02:24:06 PM »

email from FAA today:

Termination of 121.5 MHz Beacons for Satellite Alerting is Coming Soon
Notice Number: NOTC0981


On 1 February 2009, the International Cospas-Sarsat [1] Organization (U.S. included) will terminate processing of distress signals emitted by 121.5 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs). This means that pilots flying aircraft equipped with 121.5 MHz ELTs after that date will have to depend on pilots of over flying aircraft and or ground stations monitoring 121.5 to hear and report distress alert signals, transmitted from a possible crash site.


Why is this happening?


Although lives have been saved by 121.5 MHz ELTs, the downside has been their propensity to generate false alerts (approximately 98 percent of all 121.5 MHz alerts are false), and their failure to provide rescue forces with timely and accurate crash location data. Both of which actually delay rescue efforts and have a direct effect on an individual's chance for survival. Rescue forces have to respond to all 121.5 MHz alerts to determine if they are real distress alerts or if they are being generated by an interferer, an inadvertent activation (by the owner) or equipment failure.


Is there an alternative?


Yes, the Cospas-Sarsat System (U.S. included) has been and will continue processing emergency signals transmitted by 406 MHz ELTs. These 5 Watt digital beacons transmit a much stronger signal, are more accurate, verifiable and traceable to the registered beacon owner (406 MHz ELTs must be registered by the owner in accordance with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation). Registration allows the search and rescue authorities to contact the beacon owner, or his or her designated alternate by telephone to determine if a real emergency exists. Therefore, a simple telephone call often solves a 406 MHz alerts without launching costly and limited search and rescue resources, which would have to be done for a 121.5 MHz alert. For these reasons, the search and rescue community is encouraging aircraft owners to consider retrofit of 406 MHz ELTs or at a minimum, consider the purchase of a handheld 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) which can be carried in the cockpit while continuing to maintain a fixed 121.5 MHz ELT mounted in the aircraft's tail.


Remember, after February 1, 2009, the world-wide Cospas-Sarsat satellite system will no longer process 121.5 MHz alert signals. Pilots involved in aircraft accidents in remote areas will have to depend on pilots of over flying aircraft and or ground stations to hear emergency ELT distress signals. For further information concerning the termination of 121.5 MHz data processing visit www.sarsat.noaa.gov



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] The Cospas-Sarsat Organization provides a satellite based world-wide monitoring system that detects and locates distress signals transmitted by Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs), Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs). The system includes space and ground segments which process the signals received from the beacon source and forwards the distress alert data to the appropriate RescueCoordinationCenter for action.


Address SARSAT inquiries to:

NOAA SARSAT
NSOF. E/SP3
4231 SuitlandRoad
Suitland, MD 20746
Phone: 301.817.4515
Toll free: 888.212.7283
Fax: 301.817.4565

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Nomex Tiberius Maximus
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Matt
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Unit: GLR-WI-156

Wisconsin Wing
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2007, 03:53:06 PM »

Question:

Because I haven't really looked into it as yet, what about 243-Only beacons?

I realize the discontinuance of 121.5, but what is to be of 243?
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Matthew Kopp, Capt, CAP
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Wisconsin Wing

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RiverAux
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« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2007, 04:13:37 PM »

I wonder how the handling of 121.5 ELTs will change, if at all.  Will the FAA notify the AFRCC of a 121.5 ELT going off and then process them as they do now or will FAA contact state authorities directly? 
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IceNine
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Posts: 1,969

« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2007, 04:21:31 PM »

I think the FAA will be handling those... as they will be illegal.


Good question about the 243's.  I am assuming that because the same satelites that pick up 121.5 are one and the same with 243 they will no longer support those either.  So I guess the military will be switching as well.

A little outside knowledge.  When I took Inland SAR Course, the Col said the satellites are "falling from the sky" and not being replaced so eventually the capability to pick these up will cease to exist, regardless of whether it is being supported or not.
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Nomex Maximus
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« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2007, 04:35:12 PM »

The satellites are not going to be monitoring 121.5 but I doubt that if someone hears an ELT on 121.5 that we are going to be disregarding it.
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Nomex Tiberius Maximus
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mikeylikey
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« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2007, 04:59:36 PM »

^  That will eventually happen.  We will all get the "121.5 is mostly false distress signals" speech and we will become compacent, and eventually a life will be lost. 
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sardak
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Posts: 935

« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2007, 06:59:19 PM »

I think the FAA will be handling those... as they will be illegal.
Unless the law changes, they will not be illegal.  What happens in 2009 is that the Sarsat system stops listening for 121.5 and 243.0.  Nothing becomes illegal.  121.5 EPIRBs were illegal as of January 1, 2007.  ELTs were not affected.
 
As for the odds of the US ELT law changing between now and February 1, 2009, there are other discussions here on CAPTalk about that.  The Sarsat system is international, including the satellites, and the rest of the world, including the US Coast Guard, has already planned for the end of 121.5 monitoring. 

We will all get the "121.5 is mostly false distress signals" speech and we will become complacent, and eventually a life will be lost. 
We already are complacent.  Once the system stops monitoring 121.5/243.0, I would expect the "mostly false" talk to decrease, because they won't be a significant bother anymore.

I wonder how the handling of 121.5 ELTs will change, if at all.  Will the FAA notify the AFRCC of a 121.5 ELT going off and then process them as they do now or will FAA contact state authorities directly?
AFRCC will still process 121.5 reports.  They just won't come from satellites.  The system will revert to the pre-Sarsat days.

A little outside knowledge.  When I took Inland SAR Course, the Col said the satellites are "falling from the sky" and not being replaced so eventually the capability to pick these up will cease to exist, regardless of whether it is being supported or not.
Falling out of the sky?  The Sarsat packages are mounted on weather satellites.  The owners and users of those aren't saying the satellites are falling (Quickscat excepted, which is not a "Sarsat").  The satellites are old, but the newest one, with 121.5/243.0/406 capability was declared on-orbit operational in May of this year.  I would call that brand new (but it already has a malfunction in the 406 processor).

The rest of the system isn't perfect, either.  Of the five LEO satellites (LEOSAR), only two are 100% in working order.  Only 3 of the 4 geostationary sats (GEOSAR) are fully functional.

So what's the FAA doing instead of trying to mandate 406 MHz ELTs?  Recommending owners install 406 MHz ELTs, and for those who don't, encouraging pilots to carry PLBs to gain the advantage of the 406 system without the cost of a 406 MHz ELT - with the reminder that the PLB can't take the place of an ELT on the plane, which is still required.

Please note the silence from CAP on the issue.

Mike
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SJFedor
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Posts: 1,691

« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2007, 07:38:30 PM »

After last tuesday night, I can tell you the 243 beacons are still alive and well!

Ended up chasing one to Nashville Intl. Ended up being a military-type PLB in a parachute pack in the life support flight of the local TNANG wing.

I would imagine that the military would come up with something cooler then the 403s. Maybe they'll go to 806?

Or, maybe, with all the other neat tracking toys they have on board, the days of just tracing the radio signal will be over for them. Dunno.

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Steven Fedor, NREMT-P
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Matt
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Posts: 469
Unit: GLR-WI-156

Wisconsin Wing
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2007, 10:32:10 AM »

I would hope that if they military is going to switch that they would do it to a harmonic that isn't known to the general public, as 121.5 and 243 are...  I mean, would you really want the databurst of 406 leaking out on the off chance that there is sensitive information?  You'd be giving a: geocache of intel to the first arrival, friend or foe.
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Matthew Kopp, Capt, CAP
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Wisconsin Wing

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sardak
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Posts: 935

« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2007, 01:39:25 PM »

To work with Sarsat, the ELT will have to transmit on 406.  But the military shares your concern.  Military survival radios have other secure frequencies in addition to 406.

You can read about the Combat Survival Evader Locator (CSEL) here:
CSEL

And the Hook2 Combat SAR System here:
Hook2 CSAR

And Digital Angel has also received a contract to build a survival radio for military aircraft
Digital Angel

This is from the DoD Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office newsletter "DoD Personnel Recovery Update," Issue 20, Summer 2005

[PLBs]are also increasingly employed in military applications throughout each of the Services. Within the last couple of years, the U.S. Navy added a 406 MHz PLB component to its PRC-149 radios, which are now being carried by Naval aviators around the world. The Combat Survivor/Evader Locator (CSEL) radio also has a 406 MHz PLB component and so will the new PRC-112G (HOOK2) radios. Civilian 406 MHz PLBs are also being used in various units throughout each of the Services, which are looking for the robust and well-demonstrated search and rescue alerting capabilities that these devices provide.

Despite the advantages that 406 MHz beacons provide with the COSPAS-SARSAT system and its global reach, the system does have some limitations, particularly with military applications. This is due primarily to the fact that COSPAS-SARSAT is an open system that is currently used by 36 nations from around the world.  It also means that each of these nations has the capability to accurately locate any 406 MHz beacon in their Area of Responsibility. For this reason, many military units are only using the 406 MHz PLB component in their radios as a last resort option or in a peacetime environment.

Mike
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RiverAux
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« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2007, 04:58:46 PM »

I understand the military is switching to 406.  Not sure what their timeline is. 
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