FCC bans 121.5 ELT's

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Right now, if we have an ELT going off on the airport, or nearby, we can locate it using a simple handheld radio. How are we supposed to find these new ELTs?

This one aint gonna last.

The great thing about 121.5 Mhz ELTs is the ability of anyone with an aircraft radio to help track it. These newer UHF ELTs require specialized equipment, which most will not have access to.

Which makes me wonder if this man would be living if the 121.5 ELTs were banned.


I’m all for the newer 406 ELT. They just need to make it mandatory to tie it to the GPS. When it goes off you don’t need a fleet of aircraft with DF gear gear to try and find it before the battery dies like the 121.5 dinosaur.

It transmits the GPS lat Long, aircraft registration data in short burst to satellite and the chopper comes and gets you with in an hour, 2 at most. Even in burning wreckage it gets off multiple position reports becoming inop.

The only problem I see with the 121.5 ban is that most the new 406 still use 121.5 also and a ban would require replacing them too.

The FCC has clarified the ruling.
The highlights:

It is not a new ruling but stems from a 2006 NPRM.
It applies only to 121.5 and not 121.5/406 ELT’s.
And the 60 day clock has not started yet.

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From Flying’s e-newsletter:

In a report that came out under the radar on June 1, the FCC slipped in a stunning mandate. Section (h) of the executive summary of the report reads “We prohibit the certification, manufacture, importation, sale or continued use of 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) other than the Breitling Emergency Watch ELT.” Bravo for Breitling, but what about the rest of us? U.S. pilots all know that satellite monitoring of 121.5 signals was discontinued in 2009, but they are still acceptable to the FAA - just not the FCC, effective in August. That allows two months’ compliance time, and even if every GA aircraft owner took immediate action, it would still be impractical to convert all U.S.-registered aircraft that quickly. The report took the Aircraft Electronics Association by surprise, too. And as AOPA’s vice president of regulatory affairs Rob Hackman said, “When two government agencies don’t coordinate, GA can suffer.” AOPA also proposed that the FCC did not sufficiently understand the implications of its ruling, in part because the agency suggested aircraft operators would “migrate” to the newer 406 MHz ELTs only if the older technology ELTs were rendered illegal to use by FCC fiat.

So, what makes Breitling so special?

I’ll take a wild stab at it, realizing that nobody has ever given an unsubstantiated opinion here. The Breitling watch is not TSO’d and therefore did not meet the original ELT requirement anyway.
Being mentioned by name is rather strange, why not just a general statement regarding uncertified personal equipment?

Has the FCC given any reason for this? Usually when they ban things the spectrum has been given to another user. (look up 700MHz ban on wireless mics). In that case the wireless mics were being operated in the old TV band, which has since been sold off to other users now that the Digital TV transition is over. So the FCC is telling people no more wireless mics in 700MHz. But here 121.5 is still an aviation frequency, and they don’t object to the new dual-band ELT’s that work on both 406 and 121.5, so what’s the technical problem with 121.5-only ELT’s? Makes no sense to me!

I don’t think it is a technical problem, in my opinion they are forcing us to change to the new 121.5/406 ELT’s “for our protection”…

121.5 was difficult to monitor from satellites, had many false alarms, many never found and so they quit satellite monitoring of 121.5 back in January. By getting people to go away from the 121.5 only ELT’s to the multiple freq ELT’s they can provide better SAR service.

Yes, 121.5 was a problem for SARSAT, and that’s why its no longer being monitored by that system. Even the new ELT’s still transmit on 121.5, so it can be heard locally by overflying pilots as well as Civil Air Patrol search teams, most of which still only have 121.5 DF (direction finding) gear. As pilots we have the choice to upgrade to UHF for maximum safety, but for many people who just fly locally on weekends, there is no need for 406 ELT’s. So in my opinion, the FCC should butt out of this and let the FAA make the rules.