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Author Topic: An interesting place for an ELT...  (Read 14638 times)
BigMojo
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« on: January 07, 2008, 05:08:25 PM »

Got called out on a standard Non-Distress ELT mission last night...With the shear quantity of boats and private aircraft here in South Florida, we get these on a regular basis. This was the first time though to try out my new DF gear. I now have a the VK3YNG MK4 Sniffer and a 3 element YAGI from Arrow Antenna, and a rubber duck for close in work. Practicing with the training ELT, this combination has been spot on, and I can hand the unit to someone with no experience and they'll walk right to the beacon. (Highly recommend this combo, it is VERY intuitive, and the combination of auto-attenuation and a signal strength meter, let you know you are undeniably on the right or wrong track)

Anyways...

Back to my story...We get the call that the ELT is in the vicinity of FLL (Ft. Lauderdale International), while en route we get updated coordinates putting it about a mile north of the airport. I think to myself, greeeeeeat...as this area is a combination of Marine Maintenance/Shipyards, and countless private homes on finger canals with private vessels. I'm gearing up in my head that this could be a long night.

As we approach the coordinates we acquire signal and continue to move to the exact spot to get a bearing. I get out the Sniffer with the YAGI and proceed to get a bearing. I have a mid-level signal level so I know it's between and 1-2 miles if exposed and 1/4 to 1/2 mile if buried in a dumpster, cabin and building. We relocate to another location to get another bearing to attain a triangulate point. From here we continue on foot, and our equipment leads us to a very stark building with a large "mast" of flags out front. After circling the building we come to the conclusion that it is in the back-left corner beyond a shadow of a doubt. (10 min on scene and we were certain of location, a new record for me). Well, we proceed to the front of the building to try and see if there's anyone home. As we come around to the front of the building, we all have a good little laugh as we realize we are at the US Naval Sea Cadet Training Center.

Our next problem, no contact information...Broward County Sheriff has no emergency contact...Their website has no phone contact. I call my girlfriend, and she uses her skills of deduction to google the Lt. Cmdr that is in charge of the facility. No answer on his home line. After trying many other methods in vain, we try calling again, and get his wife. After not being sure who we were or what we were doing she reluctantly gave us her husbands cell number as he was not home. We call, and get ahold of the Lt. Cmdr, inform him on who we are and the situation.
He says "Yes, we have an old ELT that we use for training, but its deactivated, so it can't be ours, are you sure?"
We reply, "Yes, we are very certain, do you store it in the SE corner of the building?"
After a LONG pause he responds, "Why yes, um, that's where it is, I saw it there earlier today."
Well, Sir, we need you or someone you designate to come down here and let us in so we can deactivate it.
"Well, I guess I'll be there in 40 min."

Lt.Cmdr, shows up and sure enough, there's the beacon in the back corner of the back office, right where we said it would be. It had tipped over and the worn out spring on the switch had activated it. The strobe no longer worked and in test mode it showed as being dead. (Had an expiration of 09/97). We deactivated it, and told the Lt.Cmdr that he needs to register the beacon, so this does not happen again, and to be 100% certain it doesn't, remove the battery. Being who they are, we left him to make the decision on his own, but with all the information he needs, and out contact info if he has any further questions.

The look on his face was priceless seeing a cadet with gear in hand lead himself, me and another senior right to the ELT. I would have never guessed that a Sea Cadet base would have, A.) A functional, unregistered beacon, B.) That it had an expired battery, or C.) that they would not have it in a secure location to prevent accidental activation. (I also wish we had a base as nice as theirs!)

I apologize for being long winded, but I'm a PAO, it's my nature to tell stories. So where's the weirdest place you've tracked down an ELT?
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Ben Dickmann, Capt, CAP
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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2008, 07:23:53 PM »

Quote
As we come around to the front of the building, we all have a good little laugh as we realize we are at the US Naval Sea Cadet Training Center.

 :D BWAAAhahahahahaha
Great story, thats definitely a unique one!

I haven't had any particularly odd ones, but cap-es.net has nice list of ways to hide an ELT for advanced searchers.  I like the underwater one
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sardak
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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2008, 09:40:01 PM »

Registration only exists for 406 MHz beacons, and is mandatory by law.  So if they have an unregistered 406 beacon...

Since they have this old "deactivated" beacon for training but don't seem to know much about it, I see a good joint training opportunity for your squadron.

As for weird places, there was the Goodwill store, swap meet, United Airlines flight attendant training swimming pool, etc.

Mike
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jeders
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2008, 10:09:47 PM »

I'm not totally sure on this, but isn't it against the law to use an actual emergency beacon for anything other than an emergency?
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BigMojo
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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2008, 10:15:01 PM »

It was an unregistered 406 beacon  ;D They did not intentionally activate it. I think it tipped over when someone slammed the door it was next to, the impact with the ground flipped the switch to "On" we were able to replicate that scenario on-site when trying to figure out what happened.

The Lt. Cmdr did mention wanting to talk about doing something joint training wise.

It was one of these monsters, an Alden Satfind 406 ME, about 2 foot high, and 8-9" in diameter at its largest girth.
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Ben Dickmann, Capt, CAP
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« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2008, 03:46:04 AM »

I recall when I was on MAWG staff having one of our staff members chase a UPS truck with an activated ELT from just off Hanscom AFB all the way to Maine.
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Michael P. McEleney
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2008, 06:30:48 AM »

It was an unregistered 406 beacon  ;D They did not intentionally activate it. I think it tipped over when someone slammed the door it was next to, the impact with the ground flipped the switch to "On" we were able to replicate that scenario on-site when trying to figure out what happened.

The Lt. Cmdr did mention wanting to talk about doing something joint training wise.

It was one of these monsters, an Alden Satfind 406 ME, about 2 foot high, and 8-9" in diameter at its largest girth.


That's one of those boat mounted EPIRBs, not a traditional airplane ELT, like most of us were thinking  ;D

Some of those also have flip sensors on them. They're mounted upside down on the boat, and if it capsizes, it triggers. Or, if someone knocks it over....

Woulda been even better if you had an aircraft overhead to point to, and educate the commander on how much fun it is to wander around and find these oopses.  ;D
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BigMojo
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« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2008, 02:06:08 PM »

Yeah...it most definetly is an OLDER boat mounted EPIRB...looking back at my text I can see how people might be led to think it was an aircraft ELT. Most of our missions these days are actually to shut down EPIRB's that have been thrown away, given-away, forgotten, etc. This model in particular didn't have the Mercury switch (Inverted mount, when righted it activates), but has a manual switch (reason for activation) and also has a water-activated/immersion auto switch. The idea with this one is to grab the small line wrapped around the middle, and throw overboard. Tie off to yourself or to life raft, that way the EPIRB has a clear view of the sky. We were about to launch an aircraft on this one, but the IC decided not to.

The commander could see how excited we were to be out and about on a Sunday night...and he was royally embarrassed that our cadets found and had to deal with an Oops by his cadets.
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Ben Dickmann, Capt, CAP
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Group 6, Florida Wing
BigMojo
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« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2008, 05:39:25 PM »

UPDATE

Get a call for a mission Saturday night from my CC...We get together and plot the coordinates, lo and behold, right in the same neck of the woods as this mission. My CC and I place a $10 bet that it's the same EPIRB...

We decide to start our search from the Sea Cadet building...upon arriving we have a very strong signal, and determine that yup, same building, same location. After getting a hold of the Commander, he decides to send his XO this time.

XO arrives, and lets us in, we go straight to the back office, and there's the EPIRB, tipped over, switch flipped to the on position. All this after the commander got a 15min "talking to" by the IC last time over the phone, about registering the beacon and if it's not being actively used to remove the battery....

Well, this time, I crack the EPIRB open and cut the battery leads and remove the battery, as we gave them a chance to do so last time. Warned him that if someone reconnects a new battery to it, and we get called out again, we're turning it over to the FCC, and it will get monumentally more expensive, and they are much less forgiving....

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Ben Dickmann, Capt, CAP
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cnitas
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« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2008, 05:44:00 PM »

Just think of all the finds you could have gotten your new trainees by letting this go off ....over and over and over...   ;D
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Mark A. Piersall, Lt Col, CAP
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« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2008, 06:24:38 PM »

We had one once where it led us to a skating rink. 

We go to the ticket booth (me in jungle fatigues, toting an Elper) and ask the woman behind the glass "Pardon me, ma'am, does anybody here own an airplane?"

She says "Well, yeah, the owner does. But its not here."

I'm thinking "Well no @#$%& lady..."

The owner comes downstairs, and we're real cordial and stuff. I said "I understand that you own an airplane, sir. Do you have the ELT here?"

"Yeah, as a matter of fact, I just changed the battery in it."

"Can we see it sir?"  He leads us upstairs, commenting about how he tested it at the top of the hour and he was sure that it was turned off.

I turn up the volume on the Elper, on which I've slipped a rubber duck, and its going just flat out bannanas.  We get to this conference room and there is the ELT on the table.  The owner says "See the switch is in the OFF <click> position."  As soon as he clicks that switch, the Elper goes from swept tone to dead. His eyes bug out of his head.

"Uh, I thought it was off."

We gave him the usual "If you crash we'll gladly dash" lecture and depart.

Funny thing was, just prior to finding the skating rink were were at this gas station at a nearby intersection getting gas and I turned the DF on for giggles and it was blowing me out of the car it was so strong (I could barely get the sensitivity turned down enough to DF it, that's how strong it was). I hop out of the car and do a 360 sweep in the parking lot.

The gas station attendant says "What are you looking for, Martians?" 

My CO and my group commander who are with me are both active-duty AF security forces-types in their short-sleeve blues. They came right from work to link up on this one. My group CC, ever looking for the perfect joke, looks around conspiratorially and says "Uh, yeah.. I'd appreciate it if you'd keep that to yourself, though."

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cnitas
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« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2008, 06:50:16 PM »

My group CC, ever looking for the perfect joke, looks around conspiratorially and says "Uh, yeah.. I'd appreciate it if you'd keep that to yourself, though."

OMG...That IS just about the most perfect ES joke there could be!    :D
« Last Edit: February 25, 2008, 08:26:27 PM by cnitas » Report to moderator   Logged
Mark A. Piersall, Lt Col, CAP
Frederick Composite Squadron
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BigMojo
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« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2008, 08:23:03 PM »

LOL...that's great!
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Ben Dickmann, Capt, CAP
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« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2008, 10:57:45 PM »

UPDATE
Well, this time, I crack the EPIRB open and cut the battery leads and remove the battery, as we gave them a chance to do so last time. Warned him that if someone reconnects a new battery to it, and we get called out again, we're turning it over to the FCC, and it will get monumentally more expensive, and they are much less forgiving....

Boy, talk about exceeding CAP's authority.  Its not our place to be altering someone's equipment like this.  What if some dumbell takes it out thinking it works, sinks and dies and then somebody says well, maybe we would have found him if CAP hadn't cut the battery leads a few months ago....
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BigMojo
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« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2008, 01:33:24 AM »

It was done with the permission of the owner. The EPIRB was donated to the Sea Cadets for use in classroom training only. The XO said it had no need or business being powered or able to be powered, and to please deactivate it permanently. I would think it's assumed that we can not alter private property, without the consent of the owner.

When I say "cut" I don't mean literally. We disconnected the leads, and removed the battery (giving the XO the battery).

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Ben Dickmann, Capt, CAP
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« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2008, 03:01:42 AM »

Okay, thanks for the clarification.  I withdraw my comments. 
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mynetdude
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« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2008, 07:04:06 AM »

this might be going too far... but you should also get that in writing in case they say differently and you have it on paper stating that permission was given by the owner for CAP ES personnel to alter equipment/property but then again... who'd have that handy in the first place.
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CKH405
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« Reply #17 on: June 19, 2008, 12:34:58 AM »

my wing likes to get creative with practice beacons you no drive around with  them and stuff. but the most creative one was placed in the hole of a porta potty yep in the proverbial can doubtlessly to say the ES officer that placed it there had to come extract it.
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« Reply #18 on: July 12, 2008, 04:39:00 AM »

Most unusual ELT nondistress find - Mouth of a Rottweiller.

Wasn't one of my missions, heard about it afterward. GT tracked the signal to a farm, asked the farmer if he had a plane,etc. No, he didn't. While the team's taling to the farmer his Rott walks up with one of the old plastic  breadbox looking ELT's in his mouth, using it as a chewtoy.

Farmer hd no idea where it came from, but the dog had been playing with it for hours.

Best place I've ever seen a trainer ELT : The trunk of a 3rd shift police car on a Saturday night. GT chased it all over town.
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« Reply #19 on: July 12, 2008, 04:43:44 AM »

How about 8 in one aircraft, 6 active.

Anyone take a guess where they were?

Hint, they were all properly in use and deployed, not shipping or storage.
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