FCC Reverses Decision on 121.5-MHz ELT Ban

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 2:52pm

At the request of the FAA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week stayed a proposal that would have prohibited the 'certification, manufacture, importation, sale or use' of emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) that transmit distress alerts on 121.5 MHz. FAA regulations require U.S.-registered aircraft to carry fixed emergency locator transmitters, but the rule doesn't specify whether they should operate on 121.5 or 406 MHz. Although satellites have not listened for 121.5-MHz signals since Feb. 1, 2009, the frequency is still monitored by ATC, the military and other pilots. Aviation groups, including NBAA and AOPA, and the FAA protested the FCC proposal when it was floated in June last year. Though NBAA opposed the mandatory prohibition of 121.5-MHz ELTs, the association is also recommending that operators phase out 121.5-MHz ELTs gradually in favor of 406-MHz ELTs, in conjunction with any new equipment, aircraft and avionics upgrades. Since July 2008, general aviation aircraft that fly internationally have needed ELTs that can transmit on both 406 and 121.5 MHz.

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““When I made the film The Invention of Lying, they gave me a private jet for getting back and forth between New York and London. I thought, ‘I will never use it’ but I ended up using it every weekend. You turn up, right, and the airport is completely empty. I mean, there’s just someone at the desk and then the pilot, who says, ‘Are you ready to go?’ and you say, ‘Don’t you want to see my passport?’ and he goes, ‘Oh yeah, I suppose I’d better.’” ”

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