A new search and rescue (SAR) program called Enhanced Special Reporting Service (eSRS) is being tested in Alaska. The program uses GPS tracking devices in an effort to reduce SAR response times.
Pilots on a VFR flight plan using GPS tracking devices such as SPOT and Spidertracks can participate in the program and additional devices will be included as they become available, according to Jim Miller, manager, Alaska Flight Services. In case of an emergency, an alert notification, which includes the location of the aircraft in distress, is sent directly to the Flight Service Station, eliminating the need for SAR crews to search the entire route of the flight plan.
At this time, the program is only being offered in Alaska and trans-border flights are not supported by the system. But the program is likely an initial test prior to implementation for the entire Flight Service Station network. Last fall, Jim Derr, director of Lockheed Martin Flight Service, told Flying that the company plans to offer this type of service.