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Canada Moves Forward With 406 MHz ELT Requirement

December 18, 2008 — Denying requests from general aviation pilots at home and abroad, Transport Canada said it would move forward with a rule requiring virtually all aircraft operating in Canadian airspace to have 406 MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) on board within two years of February 1, 2009. The rule is inspired by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standard requiring the newer digital units for commercial international flights. On February 1, 2009, search and rescue satellites are scheduled to stop monitoring the current 121.5 MHz standard.

Denis Browne, chairman of the EAA Canadian Council, who submitted comments to the rule in October, feels the requirement goes beyond the ICAO standard. “Transport Canada seems to be to exceeding the requirements of other jurisdictions by requiring virtually all aircraft to be so equipped,” he said. “In effect they are going further than any other jurisdiction regarding non-commercial flights.”

At a December 11 meeting with key stakeholders Transport Canada said it anticipates at least a two-year transition period in which a blanket exemption would be in effect to allow thousands of Canadian aircraft to comply with the rule. The proposed exemption would allow flight in Southern Canada (below 50° lat. east of 80° long./below 55° lat. west of 80° long.) with an installed 121.5 MHz ELT. Vehicles exempted from the 406MHz ELT requirement are gliders, balloons, ultralights, parachute aircraft and a limited number of other operations.

Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) President Kevin Psutka, who attended the December 11 meeting, summarized the proceedings in an e-mail to COPA members last week.

The United States (FAA) does not plan to adopt the 406 MHz ICAO standard for domestic only flights, so most aircraft owners will likely choose not to spend the estimated $1,000 (plus installation) to equip their aircraft. This could result in a sharp decline in tourism and business flights by U.S.-registered aircraft into Canada. From May 2007 to May 2008, the Canada Border Services Agency processed more than 63,000 foreign private aircraft, roughly 90 percent U.S.-registered.

In an effort to lessen the economic consequences of such a potential decline, EAA asked Transport Canada in October that U.S.-registered aircraft 12,500 pounds gross weight or less with a maximum five seats be exempted from the 406 MHz rule, claiming an equivalent level of safety under the U.S. ELT regulatory requirements. EAA also submitted an alternative means of compliance that would allow U.S pilots to use less costly 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) instead of an installed 406 ELT. In addition, EAA asked that pilots who fly common/direct flight routes over Canada between the Northeastern U.S. area and the Midwest with no intention of landing at a Canadian airport be exempt from the rule. TC denied these requests.

“Until such time as the new Transport Canada 406 MHz ELT rule is finalized and published within the next 60 days, we won’t know the true impact on our members,” Browne said. “We expect that the impact could be substantial.”

Browne’s suggestion to extend authorization for Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AME) to perform most beacon installations was approved. EAA and the Canadian Council will continue to push for alternative means of compliance (AMOC), including use of PLBs and 121.5 MHz ELTs for non-commercial use; and providing a two-year transition period for compliance to allow new products to become available, be properly assessed, and for AMOCs to be considered.

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