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Pilots Caught in Middle of Conflicting Federal Rules

EAA advises members to not take action at this time

June 23, 2010 —EAA is working with other aviation association to remedy a situation where conflicting rules written by two different federal agencies would place pilots in a precarious position – being in compliance with one but not the other.

On June 15 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released for publication a change to 47 CFR Part 87 that will “prohibit the certification, manufacture, importation, sale, or continued use of 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) other than the Breitling Emergency Watch ELT.” Meanwhile, the FAA in 14 CFR Part 91.207, stipulates that U.S.-registered civil airplanes are required to have an approved automatic type emergency locator transmitter in operable condition attached to the airplane. The FAA does not specify either 121.5 or 406 MHz, but the overwhelming majority of aircraft are equipped with 121.5 MHz units, meaning they would be in violation of federal law when it goes into effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

EAA, other aviation associations, and the FAA are in ongoing communications with FCC to work out the situation, and EAA advises members to not make any changes with regard to their ELTs at this time.

“This regulatory change would impose a substantial and unwarranted cost on general aviation,” said Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs. “And this also creates a burden for the GA community and those ground-based rescue units that continue to use the 121.5 frequency to perform searches and save lives.

“At the very least the FCC action is being conducted without properly communicating with the industry or understanding the implications of its action,” he added.

The FCC rule also highlights the fact that threats to GA can come from many different agencies, and that agencies outside of the FAA do not necessarily understand the effects of their actions on aviation.

Both the 121.5 MHz and 406 MHz ELTs meet the FAA’s regulatory requirements if manufactured to the proper technical standard order. While satellites no longer monitor the 121.5 MHz frequency as of Feb. 1, 2009, the frequency is monitored by ATC, the military, and other pilots.

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