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NTSB Recommends Annual ELT Checks on GA Aircraft

Results from fatal crash that claimed Sen. Ted Stevens


January 6, 2011 —The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued two safety recommendations to the FAA that would require a detailed inspection at annual of all emergency locator transmitters (ELT) installed on general aviation aircraft to ensure that their mountings maintain their retention capabilities during an accident. The recommendations come as a result of NTSB’s investigation into the August 2010 fatal crash of a de Havilland turbine Otter airplane in Alaska that claimed the lives of five people, including former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens.

According to the NTSB, the aircraft’s ELT was found loose on the floor of the airplane by a pararescuer at the crash scene. It had activated but was separated from its mounting bracket and antenna; thus, satellite and aircraft involved in the aerial search did not detect vital aircraft registration information and the global positioning system coordinates that would have hastened SAR. Nor did the unit transmit the 121.5 MHz homing signal detectable locally by other aircraft, air traffic control facilities, or rescue personnel who use a compatible receiver.

“In this case, the airplane was equipped with a functioning 406 megahertz ELT, which can be a tremendous aid to search and rescue operations,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “But this vital life-saving technology won’t do anyone any good if it doesn’t stay connected to the antenna.”
Nearly five hours after the crash, volunteer airborne search personnel located the aircraft approximately 19 miles from where the flight originated. Four passengers were seriously injured. NTSB states that had the ELT remained attached to the mounting tray, it is likely that the signal would have been detected soon after the accident, and search and rescue personnel could have been dispatched directly to the accident site hours earlier.

“EAA members don’t have to wait for an official FAA response to these NTSB recommendations.” stated Randy Hansen, government relations director.  “Next time you’re doing a preflight or annual inspection, take a little bit extra time to examine your ELT mounting system to ensure the connections are tight and there is no corrosion or other visible issues at the mounting points.  These are simply reasonable safety precautions that you would take prior to any flight.”

Read the complete NTSB recommendation document here.


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