Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Aviation News!

It is fastly approaching, the beginning of the fire season (2008). For some the thought of Fire Season is a distant idea... however, the truth is that crewmembers will be showing up in a little over a month! Approximately 6 weeks from now, I will have my complete crew on and working towards being prepared for the fire season... So this is the 1st installment of "Aviation News!"... where I will inform you about the things that are coming up in the aviation world.

Today I recieved an e-mail that will undoubtedly affect many of you in the aviation world. For most of you, the difference will never be noticed... but if things go wrong, you'll be glad that our vendors have complied with the change.

Starting on February 1st, 2009... there will be a frequency change for the E.L.T. (emergency locator transmitter). E.L.T.'s are required in all helicopters that will or do work for the federal government. It is part of the AMD and FS carding system that inspectors with the government verify that each aircraft has an operating E.L.T.

E.L.T.'s for civilian use have broadcast in a frequency of 121.5 Mhz and the military have broadcast at 243 Mhz. On February 1st of 2009 those frequencies will change. Both civilian and military users will share a frequency of 406 Mhz. It is very important that all vendor aircraft switch their current E.L.T.'s to this new frequency as soon as possible. This will require the purchase of new E.L.T.'s... Don't worry, this won't be a hard change! What this means is that it will not be required to change prior to February 1st, 2009, but rather as soon as feasible. Most companies should consider changing out their E.L.T.'s as the rotation for battery replacement is apparent. (most E.L.T.'s require battery replacement every 5 years.)

So why the change... wasn't the current system working? Well the answer is yes! It was working, however the company could make it better. That is what this upgrade is all about. As most of you already know, the government radios have been making a transition to Digital capable. Digital is an upgrade for many reasons which I won't delve into on this post... however, for the E.L.T. to jump into the Digital bandwith of 406 Mhz... has some incredible benefits. Currently the way that the E.L.T. works is through a radio frequency which can be picked up by other aircraft, ground based listening posts, and most importantly the Cospas-Sarsat System. The way that this system works is utilizing satellites in space to recieve and triangulate distress signals broadcast as specific frequencies (i.e. 121.5 / 243 Mhz). The following diagram illustrates how the system works...

Currently using an analog system has caused some false alarms... 1 out of every 50 alerts, on average, is a genuine distress call. This is caused by many reasons, however the only thing that can be done when these ghost alerts come in... is to launch rescue personel or start the search for the distress beacon. This ties up a lot of resources that could be potentially "out of pocket" when really needed. Going to Digital (406 Mhz) allows additional information to be carried on the distress beacon (kind of like sending an e-mail via a radio signal). The information transmitted carries information about the owner of the E.L.T. that has been tripped. This allows the rescue stations to make initial contact via telephone to the owner of the beacon to clarify the potential that an aircraft has genuinly crashed... initial testing has shown that this improves the actual recieved distress calls. 1 in every 17 are actual distress calls. There are a lot of other reasons to move to the new system, however that is the primary reason.

If you are looking for more information concerning the Cospas-Sarsat System you should visit their website www.cospas-sarsat.org this organization is a global organization that provides non-discrimenatory services for the entire world. They recieve signals from not only E.L.T.'s, but also personal beacons and maritime (oceanic) beacons. If you are unfamiliar with how an E.L.T. works and spend anytime whatsoever on aircraft, I would get educated!

Feel free to e-mail any questions you may have to our e-mail zionhelitack@live.com or you can make comment on this blog by clicking the comments link below...

Cheers and be safe out there,

Edit - I would like to thank Cheryl Bertoia, for making the comment below. It should be emphasized, as she mentioned below in her comment, that in order for the Digital 406 Mhz signal to work at its full potential... the user must register their device. The registration of the device is where important information about the company, to include contact information, will be linked to the unique carrier wave specific to each unit. Going Digital is great, but it is kind of like having a computer and not knowing how to run it... all that technology is great but you need to educate yourself in order to use it to its full potential.

So as Cheryl mentioned... if you are purchasing a new E.L.T. and wish to use it to its full potential, than visit the following website and register it... www.sarsat.noaa.gov this is the location where those from the U.S. can register online... or for more information, go to the experts at www.cospas-sarsat.com I'm sure they will answer any questions you may have.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very nice article describing the need to "Switch to 406". One important point - the digital signal that a 406 MHz beacon emits carries a unique identifier for the beacon. In order for search and rescue organizations to obtain important information such as emergency contact phone numbers, the beacon must be properly registered. In the USA, beacons can be registered online at www.sarsat.noaa.gov.
Cheryl Bertoia
International Cospas-Sarsat Programme Office, Montreal, Canada