Surprise! FCC Mandates Prohibition of 121.5 MHz ELTs

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.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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