SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Older ELT units can pose a safety concern for the general aviation community


September 03, 2010
Friday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska - At 3:10 am Thursday, the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad's office received a call from United States Coast Guard Sector Juneau requesting assistance in locating a 121.5 Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) transmitting in the Ketchikan area. The USCG reported Ketchikan flight service was hearing the signal very strong just south of the airport.

According to infromation provided by Jerry L. Kiffer, at 3:35 am, the Direction Finding team (DF team) started tracking the signal. The signal was heard in the Bar Harbor area and as far south as Mountain Point. The signal's audio quality was good but the signal was very weak and the team had difficulty in determine the direction the signal was coming from said Kiffer.. Direction Finding operations performed at several locations that seemed to indicate the signal might be originating from the Airport. At 6:40 am, the team located the signal on an aircraft parked on the ramp at the airport. The owners of the aircraft were contacted and they responded to secure the signal.

The number team deployments for Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) signals has fallen sharply this year after the February 2009 USCG decision to turn off the receivers on the SARSAT satellites that were listening for 121.5 emergency signals said Kiffer. "We certainly do not feel the number of signal activations have been reduced, but with the satellites no longer listening, we fear the beckons are transmitting until their batteries go dead. This may result in an aircraft taking off with an ELT with a dead battery, and in case of a crash the ELT will then not operate."

Kiffer said, "We consider this a very serious safety concern for the general aviation community. If an aircraft crashes in a remote location the ELT will activate but we will have no way of knowing that the aircraft is down unless somebody happens to fly by close enough to receive the signal. The occupants of the aircraft will simply have to wait until they are reported overdue before a search will be started. Without a Lat/Long position from the ELT, rescue crews will be forced to start the search from the point of departure instead of flying directly to the scene".

The answer offered by United States Coast Guard officials is to have all aircraft install the newer 406 mhz ELT's but at this point we are unsure if anybody in Ketchikan has been able to acquire these units said Kiffer. In some cases at over $1,000.00, less installation, the cost may contribute to the slow replacement of older units he said.

What can you do? Kiffer said, "Check your ELT for operation before each flight, monitor 121.5 during your flight and report all signals to flight service or the USCG, file a flight plan or leave a flight plan with somebody you trust. We will not be able to search for you if nobody knows you are missing."

Kiffer said, "Contact our office and pick up a SPOT locater beckon; we loan them out free of charge and will monitor them for an emergency activation. In case of an emergency, we will be receiving your position every ten minutes. Longer term loans are possible for extended trips and projects." Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad's phone number is 225-9010.


Source of News:

Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad


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Ketchikan, Alaska