Thursday, January 13, 2011

(More) (Further) Thoughts on the ELT

Back in June of last year I discussed here an order promulgated by the FCC that would, with effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register:

"...prohibit further certification, manufacture, importation, sale or use of 121.5 MHz ELTs."

This order caused a kerfuffle in the GA community, since the withdrawal of "approval" from 121.5 MHz ELT's would effectively place any aircraft using them in violation of 14CFR91 Subpart C Section 91.207.

Now, half a year later, the FCC has thought better of the whole thing. The Commission has issued a stay of the portion of its earlier order relating to 121.5 MHz ELT's.

The Commission carefully points out that:

"The FCC coordinated the Third Report and Order with NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) in November 2009. NTIA provided the draft version of the Third Report and Order to those agencies that participate in the IRAC (Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee), including the FAA. The FAA raised no issues or objections to the portion pertaining to 121.5 MHz ELTs." (Emphasis added)

Of course, upon release of the Order, the FAA moved out smartly in pursuit of the horse that was now well out of the barn:

"On July 14, 2010, the (NTIA) forwarded to the Commission a request from the FAA that the Commission not implement this rule amendment. The FAA believes that the current supply of 406 MHz ELTs is not sufficient to replace all existing 121.5 MHz ELTs in the short term, so, given that most General Aviation aircraft are required to carry ELTs, a prohibition on 121.5 MHz ELTs would effectively ground most such aircraft. The FAA further asserts that 121.5 MHz ELTs can continue to provide a beneficial means of locating missing aircraft even without satellite monitoring of frequency 121.5 MHz, because the frequency is still monitored by the search and rescue community, including the Civil Air Patrol. It also is concerned about the cost of equipping aircraft with 406 MHz ELTs."

After a suitable period of bureaucratic soul-searching, the Commission has now stated that:

"Under these circumstances, we believe it would be in the public interest to further consider what actions the Commission should take in light of the termination of satellite monitoring of frequency 121.5 MHz, with the benefit of an augmented record. Toward that end, we will stay that portion of the Third Report and Order prohibiting the certification, manufacture, importation, sale or use of 121.5 MHz ELTs. No action will be taken regarding 121.5 MHz ELTs until further notice, following an additional opportunity for interested parties to comment."

Y'all can relax now. Let us hope with fervor that the now-ever-vigilant FAA can (via the IRAC and the NTIA) keep the FCC from doing anything rash with regard to ELT's.

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