406 ELT

When are we going to be required to switch to this?


  • Sounds like the FCC wanted to prohibit further manufacture of 121.5 ELT's, but the FAA said no. Apparently of 200,000 or so aircraft in the country, only 38,000 have installed 406 ELT's. They estimated it would cost $500 million to update all aircraft, plus now they don't believe (duh) that enough 406 ELT's could be manufactured fast enough. I recall reading somewhere that the 406 mhz models weren't as effective as the 121.5 mhz models?
  • If you subscribe to the theory that no one will come to help you following a crash - and you are comfortable with this thought - then hold on to your 'FAA legal, but useless' type 121.5 ELT. If you want any hope that Search and Rescue (SAR) will reach you following a crash, then invest in a type 406 ELT. It really is as simple as that.
    Scott B.
  • I had read the report and to be honest, I think it is inevitable. And it is indeed a better system but I think the FAA did the right thing in holding off on issuing an enforcement ruling on it if for no other reason than that many of us will need the time to at least be able to save up for it. Looks like it's running for around 1K right now. Sky Geek has the 406 ELT and antenna for $945.00. Others are a little on either side of that.

  • Didn't take the FBO long to call me and tell me the tower called and said there was an ELT going off on the field and thought they had localized it to my plane. I went down to the airport and pulled the inspection plate and unplugged it. A new battery fixed the problem with my dinosaur 121.5 ELT.
  • Greg S wrote:
    Sounds like the FCC wanted to prohibit further manufacture of 121.5 ELT's, but the FAA said no.

    The FCC's rule would have prohibited everything to do with 121.5 ELT's - including their use. It would have mandated deactivation or removal of all 121.5 ELT's in the United States.
    Greg S wrote:
    I recall reading somewhere that the 406 mhz models weren't as effective as the 121.5 mhz models?

    I've never heard this before. Can you elaborate?
  • Scott: My answer to your last question, is "yes," I believe it makes sense to defer purchasing a 406 ELT for now.

    1. I have a 121.5 ELT, which retains some marginal utility.
    2. I regularly use a Spot every time I fly, which has the capability of pinpointing my position precisely, providing I activate the SOS feature in an emergency (it's on my emergency checklist now), and even if I don't, the Spot leaves a breadcrumb every ten minutes, which narrows down my position considerably. The Spot is about 1/10 the cost of a 406 ELT.
    3. Which leads to: 406 ELTs are prohibitively expensive now and will undoubtedly come down in price.
    4. There is still considerable controversy over the effectiveness of ELTs, regardless of frequency.
    5. On cross-countries I file a flight plan and use flight following.
    6. Even better technology will likely appear in the next few years.
    7. In the vast majority of airplane crashes, location is known almost immediately. Lengthy searches are rarely required.

    All of these factors, taken as a whole, leave me comfortable with my decision to defer purchasing a 406 ELT for now. It's a risk-benefit analysis, to be sure. Other people may reasonably reach a different conclusion.

    P.S. If I routinely flew in remote areas, I would purchase a Spider S3 for about the same cost as a 406 ELT. The Spider leaves a breadcrumb every two minutes, and the data points include lat/long, time, speed, track and altitude. That strikes me as much more useful than the uncertain prospect of a 406 ELT activating when needed. This illustrates what I mean by better technology coming out over time. Bureaucrats and regulations just can't keep up.
  • 121.5 may not be as good as 406, especially as time goes forward, but I also don't think that 121.5 ELTs are completely useless. Check pages 9 and 10 of this transcript, between 2330:19 and 2333:41. In that specific case, it didn't help, but the point is ATC tried it and several aircraft in the area were listening for a signal.

    Different story if you're flying in the boonies or not in contact with ATC...if no one knows you're in trouble, 121.5 will be far less useful, and 406 might give you a better shot of someone noticing your predicament. On the other hand, if you're IFR or on Flight Following, and ATC knows you were in distress before they lost contact with you, 121.5 might still help 'em find you.

    Not saying 121.5 is great. Just saying it's not "really as simple" as being "FAA legal, but useless" as Scott B. stated in an earlier post.
  • My CAP search and rescue friends tell me that in the field, they find 121.5 to be the more useful of the two.
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