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There has been a lot discussion about replacing 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) with 406 MHz ELTs, since 121.5 MHz ELTs are no longer monitored by satellite.

Are private planes required to have 406 MHz ELTs for operation? Is there a deadline for conversion? Since this is a country-by-country regulation, I am interested in

  • Canada
  • U.S.
  • Mexico
  • Bahamas
  • Europe
  • Australia
  • (other countries, if information is available.)
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I can't speak for the other countries, but at the moment (December 2013), at least in the United States, the answer is no.

The FAA and the FCC have been engaged in a bit of a regulatory battle of wills on this subject, (most recently in March of 2013, and covered by AOPA, EAA, and AvWeb pretty extensively) - Basically the FCC wants us to take our 121.5MHz woop-woop boxes and make them go away, because they're pretty lousy for search-and-rescue, and the FAA is, for the moment, telling the FCC to get stuffed because regulating aircraft is the FAA's job.


Now just because you don't have to replace your ELT doesn't mean you shouldn't -- to be honest a 121.5MHz ELT is not much better than having no ELT at all (COSPAS-SARSAT doesn't monitor 121.5 anymore), so you should consider the type of flying you do, and the likelihood of an incident where the ELT might be useful.

The new 406MHz ELTs are vastly superior to 121.5MHz units for search-and-rescue performance, and if I were running a commercial operation, or flying regularly in an area were search-and-rescue help may be hard to come by if I had an emergency (like say Alaska) I'd fork over the cash for a GPS-enabled 406MHz ELT to replace the ancient 121.5MHz unit in my plane in a cold second.

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In Australia aircraft which require the carriage of an ELT are to use a beacon which operates on frequencies 406 and 121.5 MHz. CASA ELT Regulation Changes

The regulation they refer to (CAR 252A) can be viewed in it's current form here. Part four is as follows:

(4) For an emergency locator transmitter, emergency position indicating radio beacon or personal locator beacon to be an eligible ELT, it must meet the following requirements:

(a) it must, if activated, operate simultaneously:

(i) in the frequency band 406 MHz–406.1 MHz; and

(ii) on 121.5 MHz;

(b) it must be registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority;

(c) if it is fitted with a lithium‑sulphur dioxide battery—the battery must be of a type authorised by the FAA in accordance with TSO‑C142 or TSO‑C142a.

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    $\begingroup$ From a technical standpoint this is actually a sensible rule - it requires ELTs that COSPAS-SARSAT will detect and locate, and preserves the 121.6MHz signal for airborne search & rescue / direction finding. (Given how much of Australia is "remote" from a search-and-rescue standpoint mandating 406MHz ELTs there also seems quite reasonable, though I don't envy you guys the refit cosys on the older GA fleet!). $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Dec 25 '13 at 6:45

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