ELT Update

By Kevin Psutka


The draft amended regulation remains in the Minister of Transport’s office. I am hopeful that the agreement that was reached with Transport Canada (TC) officials to permit private aircraft to retain their existing 121.5 MHz ELTs will be reflected in the amended regulation.

There is some confusion about what applies now. The existing regulation CAR 605.38 that permits older ELTs (TSO C91), newer ELTs (TSO C91a) or the newest ones broadcasting on 121.5 MHz and 406 MHz (and some also on 243 MHz) (TSO C126) remains in place until such time as TC issues a revised regulation. There is no date set for the revised regulation but there will be a transition period permitted regardless of whether or not we are exempt from equipping with a TSO C126 ELT.

There is also some confusion about who can install a TSO C126 ELT. Installation of ELTs is considered specialized maintenance and therefore requires an approved installer, normally an avionics shop. COPA encouraged TC to consider installation of ELTs as non-specialized for two reasons.

If everyone was either forced to equip with a new ELT or decided to do so, the relatively small number of shops could get flooded with installation work. Also, it would be less costly and more convenient to install ELTs at home, for example during an annual inspection when the aircraft is open for inspection anyway.

An exemption was put in place to permit certain Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AME)s in certain aircraft, including private aircraft, to install TSO C126 ELTs. The wording from the exemption is as follows:

“This exemption applies either to holders of an AME license with an M1, M2 or E rating when the TSO C126 406 MHz ELT is to be installed in a private aircraft, or to a person who has aircraft certification authority (ACA) for the type of aircraft involved, when working within an Approved Maintenance Organization (AMO) that does not have a rating for the performance of avionics specialized maintenance.”

The original exemption, like all exemptions, had an expiry date of Sept. 30, 2009. The purpose of expiry dates is normally to permit time for the regulation to be changed to reflect the intent of the exemption.

Since the regulation (CAR 571.04) is bogged down in the regulatory change process along with many other regulations, the exemption expired. However, contrary to some people’s belief that aircraft owners must have their ELTs installed by an avionics shop, the exemption was reissued with a new expiry date of March 31, 2011. The complete exemption is available at http://www.tc.gc.ca/aviation/applications/exemptions/docs/en/2052.htm.

I would like to again remind everyone that 121.5 MHz is no longer being monitored by satellite. Those owners who are not equipped with an ELT that broadcasts on 406 MHz should be extra careful in how and where they operate their aircraft.

COPA encourages everyone, regardless of whether or not your aircraft is equipped with 406, to carry something else on board to improve your chances of being found. There are several options available at relatively low cost and these have been explained in previous articles. I also encourage everyone to monitor 121.5 MHz whenever it is possible to do so. For some of us, this may be our only means of distress alerting.