Implementation Date For The Ban Is Still Not Set In Stone
Effective in August, the FCC 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, and AEA says it will post weekly updates on the website to address this critical issue. (See latest info at the bottom of all articles)
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, NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Air Force, and NASA, 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 go ahead with the ban.
The AEA was not made aware of this issue until Monday, June 21st, 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.
FMI: www.fcc.gov www.aea.net
FCC BANS 121.5 ELTS
The Federal Communications Commission took the general aviation world by surprise when it said in a recent report it will prohibit the sale or use of 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters, effective in August. TheAircraft Electronics Association said it just learned of the new rule today, and has begun working with the FAA, FCC and others to allow for timely compliance without grounding thousands of general aviation aircraft. The 121.5 ELTs are allowed under FAA rules. The FCC said its rules have been amended to “prohibit further certification, manufacture, importation, sale or use of 121.5 MHz ELTs.” The FCC says that if the 121.5 units are no longer available, aircraft owners and operators will “migrate” to the newer 406.0-406.1 MHz ELTs, which are monitored by satellite, while the 121.5 frequency is not. “Were we to permit continued marketing and use of 121.5 MHz ELTs … it would engender the risk that aircraft owners and operators would mistakenly rely on those ELTs for the relay of distress alerts,” the FCC says. AOPA said today it is opposed to the rule change.
“The FCC is making a regulatory change that would impose an extra cost on GA operators, without properly communicating with the industry or understanding the implications of its action,” said AOPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Rob Hackman. “There is no FAA requirement to replace 121.5 MHz units with 406 MHz technology. When two government agencies don’t coordinate, GA can suffer.” The AEA said dealers should refrain from 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.”
From the EAA….
Pilots Caught in Middle of Conflicting Federal Rules
June 21, 2010 — EAA is working to remedy a situation where conflicting rules written by two different federal agencies will soon place pilots in a precarious position – being in compliance with one but not the other.
On June 15 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released for publication a change to 47 CFR Part 87 that will “prohibit the certification, manufacture, importation, sale, or continued use of 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) other than the Breitling Emergency Watch ELT.” Meanwhile, the FAA in 14 CFR Part 91.207, stipulates that U.S.-registered civil airplanes are required to have an approved automatic type emergency locator transmitter in operable condition attached to the airplane. The FAA does not specify either 121.5 or 406 MHz, but the overwhelming majority of aircraft are equipped with 121.5 MHz units, meaning they would be in violation of federal law when it goes into effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
EAA is working with fellow aviation associations to prevent this action and exploring all avenues of action to address this rule before it goes into effect.
“This regulatory change would impose a substantial and unwarranted cost on general aviation,” said Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs. “And this also creates a burden for the GA community and those ground-based rescue units that continue to use the 121.5 frequency to perform searches and save lives.”
“At the very least the FCC action is being conducted without properly communicating with the industry or understanding the implications of its action,” he added.
The FCC rule also highlights the fact that threats to GA can come from many different agencies, and that agencies outside of the FAA do not necessarily understand the effects of their actions on aviation.
Both the 121.5 MHz and 406 MHz ELTs meet the FAA’s regulatory requirements if manufactured to the proper technical standard order. While satellites no longer monitor the 121.5 MHz frequency as of Feb. 1, 2009, the frequency is monitored by ATC, the military, and other pilots.
AOPA opposes FCC rule that would outlaw 121.5 MHz ELTs
The Federal Communications Commission on June 15 released the notice of a rule prohibiting the “certification, manufacture, importation, sale, or continued use of 121.5 MHz ELTs.” The rule would suddenly make aircraft that are in full compliance with the federal aviation regulations in violation of federal communications law. AOPA is aggressively pursuing all options to have the FCC and FAA delay and re-evaluate the rule, highlighting the economic and operational impact to the more than 220,000 aircraft in the GA fleet, most of whom still carry the 121.5 MHz ELTs. AOPA
The Federal Communications Commission took the general aviation world by surprise when it said in a recent report it will prohibit the sale or use of 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters and require the use of 406 MHz units, a rule that could take effect as soon as August. Most of the 220,000 or so GA aircraft in the U.S. still use the 121.5 ELTs, which are allowed by the FAA. The FCC rule doesn’t take effect until 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register, and AOPA says they hope to work things out with the FCC before that publication takes place. Nonetheless, AOPA’s Rob Hackman said, “At this time, we caution anyone against purchasing a new ELT until this issue is resolved. There’s a lot of misunderstanding at this time as to the status of this rule.” On Wednesday, the Aircraft Electronics Association said the FCC has clarified that the rule is targeting legacy TSO C91a ELTs, which operate primarily on 121.5 MHz, not the general use of frequency 121.5 MHz as the rule implies. “Current TSO C126 ELTs are not affected by this ruling,” the AEA said. The FAA also appeared to be surprised by the FCC rulemaking.’ We are discussing this with FCC. We have stated that their order is inconsistent with the FAA’s rule,” FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette told AVweb.
FCC spokesman Matt Nodine told AVweb on Wednesday he doesn’t have a date for the rule’s publication, but when asked if the agency would be open to further discussion on the matter of ELTs, he said “We’ve already been open to discussion.” A notice about the proposed changes was posted on the FCC Web site and disseminated as an NPRM, and public comment was invited, he said. The rule changes have been in the works for several years. “We’ve gone through multiple [comment] cycles already,” Nodine said. The 121.5 ELTs are no longer monitored by satellite, but the frequency is watched by other aircraft, air traffic control, and the military. The FCC notice says, “Were we to permit continued marketing and use of 121.5 MHz ELTs … it would engender the risk that aircraft owners and operators would mistakenly rely on those ELTs for the relay of distress alerts.” However, the notice specifically exempts the Brietling Emergency Watch, which broadcasts its signal on 121.5. Upgrading to the 406 ELTs comes at a cost, and many pilots believe there is not a great increase in safety. AOPA and EAA both have expressed opposition to the rule change and said they are working to prevent it from taking effect.
FCC Clarifies 121.5 MHz ELT Rule
AEA’s Peri: “60 Day Clock … Has Not Begun”
Aviation’s alphabet groups have jumped to respond to the threat of the FCC’s proposed ban on the certification, manufacture, importation, sale, or continued use of 121.5 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitters. It’s being portrayed as a sudden, unexpected ruling, but that’s a matter of perspective.
Like the California flight instructor regulatory mess of two weeks ago, the FCC’s ELT ruling shows, if anything, the extent to which the alphabet groups are focused on Washington in general, and the FAA in particular, and don’t have mechanisms in place to monitor lawmaking at the state level or in other federal bureaus.
The June 1st ruling appears at first glance to have gone unnoticed within the aviation industry for no more than about two weeks. But it actually stems from a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking dating all the way back to 2006.
Ric Peri, VP for Industry and Regulatory Affairs for the Aircraft Electronics Association, said in the June 23rd Aero News Special Feature that the FCC has been inundated with comments on the action, and has said it will not take any action which forces pilots to choose between contradictory federal rules from the FCC and FAA.
He adds that in response to the heads-up from AEA, AOPA and other groups “…the final rule has not been submitted to the Federal Register for publication, therefore, the 60-day clock for implementation of the rule has not begun.”
Unlike the California state legislature, the FCC also seems to be admitting it had inadequate background on the feasibility or impact of its ruling, which Peri estimates would have forced 200-thousand aircraft through 800 repair stations in a 60-day period, impossible even if an adequate supply of newer ELTs was available.
AEA adds that the FCC has clarified its intent to outlaw only those older ELTs which have only 121.5 MHz capability, not the newer, 406-MHz ELTs which also transmit on 121.5.
On the AEA website, the association encourages its membership not to sell C91a ELTs to customers without them knowing the latest ruling of the FCC, there is no immediate regulatory need for operators to upgrade their legacy C91a ELTs to the more modern C126 ELTs. For safety reasons, the AEA continues to encourage operators to upgrade their ELTs to the modern C126 ELT. Operators of the legacy C91a ELTs should be made aware the usefulness of their ELTs is very limited, as the justification for the FCC ruling indicates, and most likely will not provide the search-and-rescue capabilities they might expect.
Peri says details in this story are developing rapidly. In the meantime, there appears to be a lesson for all of us. If you see something happening in your state capital, or in a federal bureau other than the FCC, and it looks like it might impact aviation, call the alphabet groups. As huge as the web of government has grown at all levels, it’s not reasonable to assume our industry advocacy groups will see everything without our help.
FMI: www.fcc.gov, www.faa.gov, www.aea.net
Editor’s Note: If you ever had any doubt how clueless these bureaucrats are, this move should settle it….