NOAA pushes beacon transition

June 7, 2008 by Paul Richfield, Senior Editor

Lt. Jeff Shoup of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) came to the AOPA Fly-In with a mission: To remind GA pilots that search and rescue satellites will cease monitoring 121.50 MHz emergency locator transmitter signals on February 1, 2009.

What GA pilots need to do now, he said, is to embrace the idea that the 406-MHz ELTs are the new standard and are here to stay, and just because the FAA does not require them, they should have one for their own safety.

“Even if they don’t go all out and buy an FAA-certified unit, even the smaller personal locator beacons [PLBs] are better than the old 121.50 [MHz] ELTs,” he said. “The price is coming down on the certified units though, and buying one shouldn’t be too painful.”

Two other messages from Lt. Shoup: If and when you do acquire a 406 MHz device, be it an ELT, PLB or EPIRB, be sure to register it with the NOAA. This way, the moment your unit is activated, SAR personnel can immediately get on the phone to confirm your whereabouts. This allows quicker rescues and reduces false alarms.

Lastly, he wants to remind pilots disposing of a 121.50 ELT to kindly remove its battery before tossing the unit into the trash. “We’ve been getting quite a few false alarms lately, from units sitting in landfills,” he said.

Have you had a recent experience with an ELT, PLB, or EPIRB? Your fellow members would like to hear about it. Please click on the comment tab and let us know what happened. For further information on distress beacons, check out

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