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Update on ELTs – COPA speaks out

 

In response to an editorial comment that appeared in the Aviation Safety Letter 2/2009 by Franz Reinhardt of Transport Canada, the following was sent to Transport Canada by COPA President Kevin Psutka.www.tc.gc.ca/ASL-SAN)

To read the ASL 2/2009 online visit:

I was alarmed to read your editorial comment in the newly released Aviation Safety Letter concerning Jeff Goyer's letter to the editor. My reading of Jeff's letter is that the regulation effectively mandates 406 ELTs for 75 per cent of the registered aircraft in Canada because tracking systems, as currently designed, cannot meet the requirements.

Since Jeff is a COPA member, he should be well aware of the debate and especially the fact that the draft regulation does permit alternatives. I believe his point was that the way it was drafted precludes all currently available alternatives, including more expensive tracking services that 75 per cent of the aircraft owners can neither afford, nor can be practically used by this huge sector of aviation.

Your comment that "the perception was that only 406 MHz ELTs were mandated" is not a perception; it is reality for the vast majority of aircraft owners. Even the revised wording that was discussed at the December 2008 meeting, in which TC was considering loosening the time and accuracy requirements, would possibly only permit tracking services like Skytrax that are only affordable and practical for some commercial operators.

I anticipate that there will be a continuing requirement for monitoring the progress of a flight, something that can only practically be done by a company flight watch system.

The key to a solution to this issue is your final comment: "It is Transport Canada's intention to permit alternate means of emergency location, which could include tracking devices should they meet the requirements set out in the regulations."

The current wording in the draft regulation, as commented on by Jeff and COPA, does not permit any alternatives at all because the requirements are too stringent. The revised wording TC has been contemplating since the December meeting may provide alternatives only for some commercial operators.

What is needed is wording that will permit affordable and practical alternatives for the majority of aircraft owners, recognizing the benefits that tracking devices bring that cannot be provided by installed devices that have to survive a crash in order to provide alerting and location information.

Our recent conversation indicates that the regulation is stalled in the Minister's office while a practical alternative is sought. COPA is willing to help develop that alternative but I believe this can best be done by convening a CARAC meeting with all stakeholders in attendance to achieve a practical solution.

 

PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS

COPA is still working toward other practical solutions regarding 406 ELTs, such as proposing to Martin Eley, director, National Aircraft Certification, that Transport Canada relax the requirement for annual certification for the new generation of Emergency Locator Transmitters based on the built-in, available and emerging methods for self-test and remote verification.

Elimination of the cost of the current annual certification process would provide that incentive for people to take advantage of these technological advances.

In addition, one of the greatest safety advantages with eliminating the need to send an ELT out for testing every year is that it eliminates the current risk from permitting aircraft to fly with no alerting whatsoever during the permitted 30-day period. Most ELTs would either be tested in place or at most the owner would take the ELT home for testing on their PC.

COPA also educated Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism) on the impending regulatory change regarding ELTs and how it will counter-act her current efforts to stimulate the economy through tourism.

Between May 2007 and May 2008, up to 68,000 foreign private aircraft were cleared for entry into Canada. Of these aircraft, 64,000 were from the U.S.

The U.S. is not mandating the new ELTs so it is highly unlikely that the majority of U.S. aircraft owners will spend thousands of dollars to voluntarily equip, especially just to visit Canada. Instead, they are likely to equip with alternative devices that, while very useful in protecting them, will not qualify these aircraft to enter our airspace.

"At this critical time for our economy, I urge you to study this issue and then encourage the Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities to bring some flexibility to the regulation so that tens of thousands of aircraft and the revenue they represent will continue to contribute to our economy. Otherwise, your efforts to attract tourism through the budget investment will be thwarted by your own government officials," wrote COPA President Kevin Psutka in a letter to the minister.

COPA also provided a detailed briefing note regarding the issue at hand to the minister including explanations and recommendations. Stand by for more to come.