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SARSAT - A Lifeline to Survival!

Reprinted with permission from FAA Aviation News

Around the world'around the clock'the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proudly stands watch. As an integral part of worldwide search and rescue efforts, NOAA operates the U.S. Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) System to detect and locate mariners, aviators, and recreational enthusiasts in distress almost anywhere in the world at anytime and in almost any condition.

The SARSAT system uses NOAA satellites in low-earth and geostationary orbits to detect and locate those in distress. The satellites relay distress signals from emergency beacons to a network of ground stations and ultimately to the U.S. Mission Control Center (USMCC) in Suitland, Maryland. The USMCC processes the distress signal and alerts the appropriate search and rescue authorities of those who are in distress and, more importantly, approximately where they are located. With the newer GPS encoded 406 MHz distress beacons, a victim's location can be located to within a few square meters.

Aviators should be aware that on February 1, 2009, SARSAT's satellites will no longer monitor for the analog 121.5 MHz frequencies given off by older Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT's). Pilots and aircraft owners are advised that they should consider changing out their 121.5 MHz ELT for a digital 406 MHz frequency, which will continue to be monitored by the satellites.

NOAA-SARSAT is a part of the international Cospas-Sarsat Program to which 38 nations and two independent SAR organizations belong. For more information about SARSAT and the transition to 406 MHz ELTs, readers can log onto the following Internet Web site at

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