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Guidance for Operators and Maintainers to prevent inadvertent activation when handling and maintaining Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs)

During the Airworthiness Panel (AIRP)/6 meeting, the Panel discussed concerns associated with incorrect ELT test procedures activating false search and rescue alerts. Worldwide data provided by COSPAS-SARSAT indicated a high number of false alerts worldwide caused by a broad range of reasons generally classified as 'mishandling of ELTs. However, the data did not have enough details to indicate that incorrect maintenance procedures significantly contributed to the false alerts. Further information received from additional States, mainly through panel members, suggested that some problems associated with test procedures for the newer ELTs may be causing false alerts.


Activating a beacon for reasons other than to indicate a distress situation or without prior coordination with the appropriate COSPAS-SARSAT Mission Control Centre (MCC)1 is considered an offense in many countries/territories. If you inadvertently activate the beacon in its operational mode, contact the appropriate agency in your region responsible for search and rescue coordination or the nearest COSPAS-SARSAT MCC as soon as possible and cancel the distress alert.


To maintain an ELT's reliability, maintenance is required to be performed as part of an aircraft's maintenance schedule/program. The typical broadcast frequencies for ELTs are 121.5 MHz and 406 MHz. Some ELTs transmitting on 121.5 MHz also transmit simultaneously on the 243.0 MHz frequency. ELTs operating in either broadcast frequency are monitored differently and thus have different requirements and procedures for conducting maintenance and handling.


The guidance (HERE) was developed by the AIRP and contained measures to prevent the inadvertent activation of emergency locator beacons and unnecessary deployment of SAR services. The guidance is designed to reduce the frequency of accidental ELT activations during handling and while maintaining an ELT. More information can be found in the reference section of the guidance.


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