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Advocacy Article

FCC Proposes to Ban Certain Types of Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) Used in Aviation Search and Rescue.

On January 30, 2013, the Federal Communication’s Commission (FCC) published a proposed rule that would prohibit the certification, manufacture, importation, sale, or use of 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs).  ELTs are radiobeacons that are activated manually or automatically to alert search and rescue personnel that an aircraft has crashed, and to identify the location of the aircraft and any survivors.  The FCC proposes this ban chiefly because the international Cospas-Sarsat satellite system, which relays distress alerts to search and rescue authorities, stopped monitoring the 121.5 MHz frequency in 2009 (in favor of using the 406 MHz frequency).  However, many 121.5 MHz ELTs are still in use and the 121.5 MHz frequency is still monitored by other search and rescue entities.

FCC seeks public comment on several issues, including the costs of purchasing and installing a 406 MHz ELT to replace a 121.5 MHz ELT, the availability of 406 MHz ELTs, and whether some general aviation aircraft would be grounded due to an inability to acquire a 406 MHz ELT.  FCC also seeks comment on alternatives to the proposed rule that minimize the economic impact on small entities, such as continued use of 121.5 MHz ELTs, grandfathering those currently in use, or providing an extended transition period.