FCC Bans 121.5 MHz ELTs

The Federal Communications Commission is prohibiting further certification, manufacture, importation, sale or use of 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters. The date of compliance by the FCC has not yet been announced.  AEA, along with other Associations’ leadership, is working with the FAA and the FCC to postpone implementation and resolve this issue.  AEA will post weekly updates on the website to address this critical issue.

In the FCC’s Third Report and Order for 2010, adopted June 1, 2010, and published June 15, 2010, the FCC has prohibited further certification, manufacture, importation, sale or use of 121.5 MHz ELTs.

Previously, the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system monitored distress signals on the 121.5 MHz frequency and relayed those signals to search-and-rescue authorities. As it first announced in October 2000, Cospas-Sarsat stopped monitoring 121.5 MHz signals as of Feb. 1, 2009. It stopped processing distress signals from 121.5 MHz emergency radio beacons because of accuracy and false-alert problems. With the support of international aviation and maritime organizations, Cospas-Sarsat has urged users of 121.5 MHz ELTs and EPIRBs to switch to 406 MHz ELTs and emergency position indicating radio beacons.

As the commission noted in the second FNPRM, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Air Force, and the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, which jointly administer the Cospas-Sarsat system in the United States, strongly recommended users of 121.5 MHz beacons switch to 406 MHz beacons.

After reviewing the comments from the 2006 proposal, the FCC concluded it should prohibit the certification, manufacture, importation, sale or use of 121.5 MHz ELTs.

The AEA was made aware of this issue only today (June 21, 2010), and has begun working with the FAA, FCC and other associations to allow for a timely transition to this new FCC prohibition without grounding thousands of general aviation aircraft. At this time, the AEA recommends members delay selling any new 121.5 MHz ELTs until further understanding of this new prohibition can be understood and a realistic timeline for transition can be established.

Contact Ric Peri, AEA vice president of government and industry affairs, by email at ricp@aea.net or by phone at 202-589-1144.