About a year ago one sailor showed his fancy life jacket. It included EPIRB or also known as personal beacon.

To date, the smallest personal beacon I managed to find is Fastnet 220, which weights 150 grams and has battery life of 6 years.

Given the scale of airline industry, how much would it cost in installation, maintenance and fuel, to fit each passenger life jacket with such device, excluding the device cost itself?

Edit: Total weight per 200 seat airplane is 30kg. Perhaps someone can translate to fuel/$ per year per whole industry?

From Thomas Cook PDF, I found that life jackets are audited every 12 weeks and takes up to 40 man-hours per aircraft although they've implemented RFID tags now.

Regarding points outside the original question scope:

The device cost can also decrease to few dollars if they are manufactured in mass scale.

Certification is also a factor. Feel free to estimate it as well if you are familiar with the industry.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You missed the "certification" cost category, which is substantial in aviation. $\endgroup$
    – cpast
    May 18, 2015 at 1:54
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Even the ordinary consumer model is at least a couple hundred USD. I can't imagine an airline fitting every life jacket with an expensive device that will get used approximately never. $\endgroup$ May 18, 2015 at 1:59
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure of the advantage of doing this? Have there been a significant number of people (i.e. > 0) lost at sea after an airliner crash who were believed to have survived but couldn't be found? $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    May 18, 2015 at 2:08
  • $\begingroup$ I was about to say exactly what FreeMan just said. I can't imagine how this would have helped in any scenario that has ever happened or how it would help in any scenario that is likely to happen. Also, at a weight of 150g and battery life of 6 years, this is almost certainly much lower transmission power than the ELBs already on the aircraft. I'm also not sure that the "how much would it cost" question is really answerable, except maybe to an order of magnitude, though the answer is almost certainly "a lot" (mostly for certification and maintenance.) $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    May 18, 2015 at 5:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Dzh: If the plane is making a controlled ditching, the chance it fails to transmit it's coordinates is very small. I haven't heard of case where airliner would loose power completely (RAT and batteries provide backup) and there are several methods for sending distress signal. If the plane is not making a controlled ditching, nobody will survive anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    May 18, 2015 at 6:31

1 Answer 1


The extra weight is roughly the weight saved by the introduction of iPads to replace paper. That's apparently saving close to $10K per plane, so you'd expect a similar cost for just flying all those beacons around.

That said, why do you need a full beacon for every vest? If your vests end up scattered over even 10 kilometers distance, you won't have survivors. What you need is a few beacons to locate the plane, and the medium-range active RFID tag on each vest. Such a tag only responds to queries originating nearby. This cuts down dramatically on the battery requirements, as the RFID tag is generally asleep and only woken up by the interrogation signal. Such RFID tags would cost about $20, and weigh a few grams. Battery life is similar (6 years) as that's just chemistry.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Can you please source your first paragraph, or is this just your opinion? $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    May 18, 2015 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ That is good proposition, but is there end device that works already? $\endgroup$
    – Dzh
    May 19, 2015 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell: Delta claims about $13 million in fuel and has about 800 planes. Net savings are probably lower because the devices aren't free $\endgroup$
    – MSalters
    May 19, 2015 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Dzh: I've played with those RFID tags a decade ago. We could read them even when we put them in the fridge of the building next door. $\endgroup$
    – MSalters
    May 19, 2015 at 7:20
  • $\begingroup$ @MSalters Is THAT your opinion, or can you SOURCE it? Please provide a link to a document that moves it from your opinion to fact backed by sources. :) $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    May 19, 2015 at 14:30

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