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FCC Relegates 121.5 MHz ELTs to the Trash Pile…Sort Of

On November 9, 2018, the FCC released their FOURTH REPORT AND ORDER on the eventual transition from the existing 121.1 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) to a newer, 406 MHz version.  This 21-page, 37-paragraph, 100-footnote, 3-appendices document boils down to this:  406 MHz ELT’s are coming as nothing can stop this migration, but, and it’s a big but, existing 121.5 MHz ELTs may still be used until November 6, 2026.

The report states that after a six-month transition period beginning November 7, 2018, the FCC will prohibit the manufacture, importation or sale of 121.5 MHz ELT’s.  As there has not been any significant manufacturing in the US of 121.5 MHz ELTs for some time, sales of these ELTs can only come from existing inventory in the supply chain and even those sales must cease May 6, 2019.

The report weighed the availability of supply of new 406 MHz ELTs and the costs to the end user of replacing their functioning 121.5 MHz ELT against the public good of an enhanced search and rescue operation with the newer 406 MHz.

The report recognized that the user base of the existing 121.5 MHz ELTs was not in any hurry to run out and buy a new ELT.  However, after May 6, 2019, they will have no choice if their existing 121.5 MHz ELT is due for replacement.  Natural attrition will thus cause many to make a change before the 2026 deadline.

This reluctance to upgrade a FAA-mandated item is understandable as these 121.5 MHz ELTs have been effective for many years.  Some aircraft owners probably question the need for the 406 MHz ELTs and may well demonstrate their displeasure by delaying making their purchase until well into the 2020s.  After all, they have eight years and a lot can happen in the interim.

It is estimated that there are over 130,000 General Aviation aircraft equipped with 121.5 MHz ELTs.  The average life of a 121.5 ELT is 10 years minimum.  Even conservative estimates of 121.5 MHz ELTs that will still be in the air until November 2026 put the number at 75,000.

The Search and Rescue community must continue its mission to find downed aircraft and save lives regardless of the FCC and FAA rulings.  Since there will still be thousands and thousands of GA aircraft using the 121.5 MHz ELTs well into the 2020’s, rescue teams must be able to detect and pinpoint their distress signals in an emergency and complete their mission.

The Polaris RDF® does this better than anyone and operates extremely effectively at the 121.5 MHz level.

Buy one today!!! Let show you how with the WalMart Community grant program, we recently helped a organization receive a grant for a Polaris 121.5 Radio Direction Finder this week for their community.

Community Grant

For all organizations interested in purchasing a 121.5 radio direction finder, Walmart offers your organization the ability to apply for a Community Grant. Organizations must submit an online application to be considered for funding.  The 2018 application grant cycle begins on Jan. 1, 2018 and ends on Dec. 31, 2018. For more details and information on how to apply for a community grant visit our Grant Page HERE.

We are a radio direction finding manufacturing company with a professional and innovative approach to assist your department with its RDF needs. Please call 1-844-812-7393 to speak with an expert about any inquiry regarding our RDF products. If you’d like to learn more about the Polaris 121 download our brochure.