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121.5 MHZ ELTs Prohibition Suspended by FCC

At the request of the FAA, the FCC has suspended the prohibition on the certification, manufacture, importation, sale or use of emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) that transmit distress alerts on frequency 121.5 MHz. The FAA believes that the current supply of 406 MHz ELTs is not sufficient to replace all existing 121.5 MHz ELTs in the short term, so, given that most General Aviation aircraft are required to carry ELTs, a prohibition on 121.5 MHz ELTs would effectively ground most such aircraft.

The FAA further asserts that 121.5 MHz ELTs can continue to provide a beneficial means of locating missing aircraft even without satellite monitoring of frequency 121.5 MHz, because the frequency is still monitored by the search and rescue community, including the Civil Air Patrol. It also is concerned about the cost of equipping aircraft with 406 MHz ELTs.

According to the FCC stay order adopted on January 10, 2011, no action will be taken regarding 121.5 MHz ELTs until further notice, following an additional opportunity for interested parties to comment. For more information and to review the FCC order, click here.