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February Deadline For Emergency Beacons Approaches

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the emergency-bacon-unaffected dept.

Communications 184

An anonymous reader writes "In two weeks, older emergency locator beacons will no longer be monitored by satellites. USA Today noticed that 85% of private aircraft in the US have not switched to the 406 MHz beacons. I thought I'd send up a flare about this. And this should not be relevant to the airplane which landed in the Hudson River today, as that was a commercial plane and its location was known by a number of bystanders, one of whom helped crash TwitPic."

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184 comments

Plane crashed YESTERDAY (-1, Offtopic)

hicks107 (1286642) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481017)

That was yesterday. Update your story.

Re:Plane crashed YESTERDAY (0, Offtopic)

An anonymous Frank (559486) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481037)

no no!
This is actually the duplicate submission that got there a little too fast.

Re:Plane crashed YESTERDAY (-1, Offtopic)

who knows my name (1247824) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481043)

And tomorrow the story will be out of date. OMFG We will have to update the story again!

Re:Plane crashed YESTERDAY (-1, Offtopic)

hicks107 (1286642) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481065)

People might wake up, open slashdot, and think another plane landed in the hudson today.

Re:Plane crashed YESTERDAY (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481111)

What? Another plane landed in the Hudson today? OMFG! The terrorists are attacking our rivers! Run for your lives!

Oh, wait...I just RTFA. Nevermind. Let this serve as a lesson to all of you to RTFA. :-P

Timezones (4, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481215)

Thankfully, due to timezones, yesterday can be today, today can be tomorrow. Possibly (although I'm not sure) tomorrow can also be yesterday. This is also the case when abusing drugs, which is not surprising, considering that the guy who invented timezones was probably doing said abuse.

Re:Timezones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26481231)

By the time this was posted, it was yesterday everywhere.

Re:Timezones (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481325)

Thankfully, due to timezones ... possibly (although I'm not sure) tomorrow can also be yesterday.

I believe that phenomenon is often expressed as "same shit, different day".

This is also the case when abusing drugs, which is not surprising, considering that the guy who invented timezones was probably doing said abuse.

Is that the guy who invented longitude, or the guy who made the earth into a sphere and decided it should rotate around the sun? Either way, I wouldn't get too worked about it. Just do what I do and rely on your sundial. The young whippersnappers among us can opt for the new digital versions.

Re:Timezones (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481587)

The guy who invented time zones is this guy. [wikipedia.org]

But really... (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481657)

...after reading to the end of the fa I linked to above, I see that time zones were really invented by this guy, [wikipedia.org] but he didn't tell enough people about it.

Re:Timezones (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481483)

When it's 01:30AM on Friday in Kiribati it might be only 23:30PM on Wednesday in Palau

Re:Timezones (1)

Alzheimers (467217) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481835)

But what time is it in Djibouti?

Party Time!

Re:Timezones (1)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 5 years ago | (#26483049)

You could ask Sheik Yerbouti, he'd probably know.

Re:Timezones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26481893)

It was downed by a cell of Al-Quaida terrorists from Canada, that go under the name of Jihad Geese.

Re:Timezones (1)

residieu (577863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482389)

Dick Tracy: I'm on duty.

Breathless Mahoney: What's your day off?

Dick Tracy: Sunday.

Breathless Mahoney: It's a big world... must be Sunday somewhere.

Re:Plane crashed YESTERDAY (2, Funny)

fubar1971 (641721) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481271)

"....helped crash TwitPic"

His servers couldn't handle the traffic of people trying to get the pictures, now you have succesfully /.'ed the thwitpic.com website.

not punny (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26481071)

"sending up a flare" "one of whom helped crash"

stop with lame aviation puns already.

WWot fp (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26481089)

Have you checked yours? (5, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481091)

I've re-checked and it's all there.

Right between the emergency eggs and the emergency beer.

New Becons cost too much (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26481113)

It isn't like the old ones will not useful. The CAP and the FAA will still listen for the 121.5 beacons. Just the satellites.

If you are flying over really remote areas (northern Montana, etc), then you are silly not to have one of the new beacons. If you are flying within 100 miles of a major city, on nice days on the weekend, it is silly to buy the new ones, if your old one works.

The new ones are about $1200 installed.

I know, "airplanes are rich mans toys", but that isn't true. You can buy a taylorcraft for $15000, and ercoupes for under $20000. Most planes out there can be bought for under $50000.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1, Redundant)

Rogan's Heroes (1274232) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481171)

So if you're already spending 15000, 20000 or 50000 dollars why wouldn't you just top it off with a 1200 dollar beacon? At that point is it REALLY that much more?

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481253)

Would you want the government telling you that you must add a $1,200 safety device to your $15,000, $20,000, or $50,000 car? I mean, honestly: At that point is it REALLY that much more?

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481943)

Um, the government already did that, ever hear of airbags?

Re:New Becons cost too much (2, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482467)

But the government did NOT require a retrofit on existing cars. To this day there are used cars for sale that have no airbags (because they never did).

Re:New Becons cost too much (4, Informative)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481305)

Actually, it is a big deal. How would you like to go buy your new car and after you get home find out that you needed to spend an additional 5-10% for no reason. The ELTs that we currently have on our aircraft work just fine. Having the satellites stop listening is the problem. The question is why? It's a software issue, nothing more, so why change it? Those satellites are sophisticated enough to listen to both frequencies and alert the appropraite personell when they detect the signal. It makes absolutely no sense why they would discontinue monitoring this important safety device. So what if it is not as accurate as the newer technology, that's a choice we make as owners. I don't fly in remote areas... in fact, most of my flights are withing 200 miles of Cincinnati, so if I go down, I'm within a few miles of a population center. CAP can use their ELT Locators to find me.

We don't need an additional "TAX." In the aviation world, we already pay through the nose for regulations and adding more is just complicating the burden. Once the price of the 406mhz units gets down to around the price of the 121.5mhz units, then the problem goes away. Right now, they cost 12x as much!

Bill

Re:New Becons cost too much (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26481609)

It makes absolutely no sense why they would discontinue monitoring this important safety device

The page linked in the article [uscg.gov] quotes a 99.8% false positive rate for satellite detections of these beacons. I.e. they run around trying to find the crashed plane, and 499 times out of 500 it's a faulty electrical appliance or something that is giving off interference (or someone activated the beacon by mistake - unfortunately they don't break down the figures further). 1 time out of 500 it's a real rescue situation.

That seems like a valid reason to say "please upgrade to new beacons that don't suffer from this interference, and which identify you so we can give you a quick phone call to see if you accidentally activated the beacon".

I can see why you're upset though - it's never nice to be told you have to spend that much cash.

Re:New Becons cost too much (4, Informative)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26483035)

Those "false positives" are triggered because detection equipment is simply listening for anything broadcasting on 121.5mhz. If you actually listen to the signal, you can quite easily tell if it is a real signal or not becuase aircraft ELTs make a unique repeating tone, microwaves or other electronic devices do not.

Accidental triggers do happen, for example, from "aggressive" landings by student pilots, but they are not all that common. If one is triggered, they don't "run around trying to find the crashed plane" unless they actually can hear the correct signal. If they do, they will usually figure it out pretty quickly and turn if off. In all my years of flying, I've only seen two situations where CAP came looking for a triggered ELT, and both were at the local airport where someone accidently set their unit off. These occurance of these types of incidents would not change if they switched to the new units, because they'd still get set off and someone would still have to come check it out. It's would just make identification easier.

BTW, In our planes, we check our ELTs once a month to determine if they are in working order. We do this by triggering the ELT at the top of the hour (first five minutes) for no more than 3 tone cycles. We listen on our radio for the alert signal. If we hear it, we immediatly turn off the ELT test and set it back to it's normal "colision detection mode" which is triggered by a rapid deceleration event (aka crash.)

Bill

Re:New Becons cost too much (3, Informative)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482039)

We don't need an additional "TAX." In the aviation world, we already pay through the nose for regulations and adding more is just complicating the burden. Once the price of the 406mhz units gets down to around the price of the 121.5mhz units, then the problem goes away. Right now, they cost 12x as much!

I'm glad you mentioned this. Most people believe pilots and plane owners are the uber wealthy, as that's what is commonly portrayed in TV and movies. As such, most don't give it a second thought when the "rich" get yet another tax. This is simply not true. The majority of commercial pilots make less than $60,000/year. In fact, many new pilots are lucky to make $40,000/year. The majority of private pilots make less than $50,000 year. And the majority of light GA piston owners make less than $80,000/year. Used planes can be purchased for less than the price of many used and new cars and can be financed out to 15 or 20 years. You do not have to be wealthy to own or fly a plane! In fact, most are not wealthy!

Why do I mention this? Because the TSA and if the FAA and airlines have their way, private pilots will be history while forcing more traffic into the major airports which forces additional delays on the air travelling public. Most don't realize how many airports there are in the US. Most do not realize these small airports save the travelling public time and money by traveling elsewhere. Furthermore, most don't realize how much money comes into the local economy from those local airports. Airport closures are on the rise. Every airport closed means lost jobs and lost dollars to your local economy. The people working at these airports are not the uber wealthy.

Also, people don't realize these pilots are an important part of your local emergency and disaster plans. For example, following the recent hurricanes which hit the US, most people don't realize some of the first to both bring supplies in and evacuees out from these areas were private pilots and their owned/rented aircraft. Without pilots and airports these missions are impossible. People widely believe only the Coast Guard and National Guard were there to help. This is simply not true.

Angel Flights [angelflight.com] serve an important role. If you don't believe me, ask many of the patients who receive critical care which would otherwise not be available to them. Without airports, these types of missions are not possible. Without pilots, these types of missions are not possible.

What's my point? If you've ever been interesting in learning to fly, go get a discovery flight. They typically cost $50 for a 30-45 minute introductory flight. You'll likely get to fly for the first time. Furthermore, if you hear about an airport closing, don't forget to support the airport. They often bring millions of dollars into your local economy and dozens to hundreds of jobs; directly or indirectly. Lastly, don't support additional taxes on pilots, aircraft, airports, and fuel. Pilots are already paying their fair share in taxes, contrary to what the FAA and airlines would have you believe.

Believe it or not, saving airports and helping pilots is actually helping your self and your community. Remember, pilots are your friends and neighbours. They are not the aristocracy portrayed in TV and movies.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

Skater (41976) | more than 5 years ago | (#26483065)

Why do I mention this? Because the TSA and if the FAA and airlines have their way, private pilots will be history...

This statement doesn't make a lot of sense in light of the fact that the FAA recently made it even easier to get a pilot's license. Granted it's limited [sportpilot.org] , but it IS available and requires only half the time and money compared to a traditional pilot's license.

Re:New Becons cost too much (2, Informative)

wkk2 (808881) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482185)

The problem with the old analog ELTs is they don't ID. So when there is a false alert, nobody is sure who might be having a problem. A hard landing, painting a boat, and curious passengers all lead to trouble. I think the real problem is the cost. Shock and water proofing shouldn't add so much to a rather simple device. A good faq can be found at http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/faq.html [noaa.gov]

Re:New Becons cost too much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26482189)

if I go down, I'm within a few miles of a population center. CAP can use their ELT Locators to find me.

As a CAP search team leader, "thank you" :-)

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

chappel (1069900) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482247)

The problem with the old tech is more than just software - being analog, they alarm on anything that transmits at a given frequency. For some reason pizza ovens are notorious for giving off noise at that frequency, as are other random devices. Well over 99% (from what the CAP says - I can't find a source atm - sorry) of the signals picked up by the satellites are false alarms - either real ELTs set off by accident (dropping one in the shop, or landing too hard), or not even an ELT at all, and the emergency response teams have to try and figure out which are real or not. The new 406 system is digital, and REGISTERED, so they know immediately who to try to contact. It will save a HUGE amount of time and effort, and mean real emergencies will get much quicker responses.

Sure, the CAP will still monitor 121.5, but only when they are flying, and happen to think of it. They will still be able to use it to home in on you if they HAVE BEEN DISPATCHED; it isn't like they just fly around waiting for a crash. An unclosed flight plan, missed arrival, or possibly an eye-witness can initiate a search - eventually. The extra cash just buys you a quicker response (assuming the stupid box survives the crash).

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482659)

We don't need an additional "TAX." In the aviation world, we already pay through the nose for regulations and adding more is just complicating the burden.

Surely anything that encourages less flying in already crowded and polluted skies is a good thing? Flying is one of the most expensive hobbies that exists in this world, to people who fly, the cost of this new beacon is the cost of a typical corporate lunch!

Re:New Becons cost too much (4, Insightful)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26483107)

Really? Crowded skys? When I'm flying, I only see other aircraft at or near airports. Most of the time, it's me and the wild blue yonder. As for the cost, I fly a Beechcraft Skipper. The plane cost less than my pickup truck, and my truck is a basic GMC model, not a fancy one. My plane get's better fuel mileage than my truck and can get me any place faster. You need to really look into general aviation to understand that it isn't a rich persons hobby, it's everybody's hobby. You can easily buy a plane for under $20,000. In fact, my last plane was a Cessna 150 which I bought for $14,000. Flying is only expensive if you make it expensive.

Bill

Re:New Becons cost too much (3, Informative)

ptomblin (1378) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481335)

When you've had your plane for a decade, and it's all paid for, do you really want to spend $1200 (and our flying club was quoted more like $2500 installed) at a time when avgas is still at near record highs (currently paying $5.25/gallon), government over-reactions to 9/11 are making it damn near impossible for new pilots to get started and damn near impossible for existing pilots to keep up with the ever changing regulations, and pilots are worried about their jobs? Our club has seen membership decline from around 60 members and 5 planes pre-9/11 to 20 members and 2 planes now. We shelled out $10,000 per plane to put GPSes in the planes because it's getting hard to fly IFR anywhere without one. And now we're being told that because there are air carriers on the same airport as us, all members and potential members will have to pass a TSA background check costing upwards of $250 each.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481665)

A bit of an odd aside, but the first thing that struck me there was how much those GPS units cost. What makes them so different to normal consumer ones?

Re:New Becons cost too much (4, Informative)

ptomblin (1378) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481801)

What makes them so different to normal consumer ones?

They're a permanently mounted part of the plane, and therefore they have to be certified to the same standard as anything else mounted in the plane. In the case of the ones we mounted (Garmin 530), they also replace one of the communications radios and one of the navigation (VOR, LOC and ILS) radios, so they have to be certified to that standard as well. And then on top of that you have to load in a new database every 56 days or the unit will refuse to let you use it for instrument approaches.

Consider also the consequences of getting it wrong. If your TomTom is off by 100 metres, you park in front of the wrong house. If my Garmin 530 is off by 100 metres, I crash into a mountain side and die.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

GizmoToy (450886) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481809)

I imagine it has to do with the airplane-specific map data they use. They likely have detailed information on all the airports in the country, including things like runway orientation, fuel availability, etc.

The market probably isn't that big, so a company or two price the units wherever they want because they have no competition, and the result is a $10k GPS system.

Cost of avionics (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26482007)

A bit of an odd aside, but the first thing that struck me there was how much those GPS units cost. What makes them so different to normal consumer ones?

The FAA will not permit "consumer" gps units to be installed into any certified aircraft. Not even into a Piper Cub. Only FAA certified GPS units are legal to install in a regular small aircraft, plus the FAA will only permit a "Certificated Repair Station" type of avionics shop to install the units too. So what this means is that in order to stay legal with my 45 year old antique Piper Cherokee (which is still a perfectly airworthy, and viable IFR-equipped aircraft that gets flown a couple hundred hours a year all over the central and southern USA), if I want a Garmin 430 installed, I can pick up a used unit for about $6500 (new ones cost $8995.00), pay a certified avionics shop to bench test it and "re-certify" it for operation to make it an FAA-legal piece of used equipment, for about $250, and then pay them an additional $2500-3500 labor to install it into my airplane, and then they have to "certify" the actual installation itself.

When you consider that my airplane only has a market value of about $30K, investing a third of its market value just to install a certified GPS unit does not make any financial sense at all. Therefore I use a portable handheld GPS, which is just as accurate as the $10K unit, but I cannot legally use it as primary navigation on an IFR flight plan, because it's not "certified" (or even certifiable) by the FAA.

I am not installing a 406MHz ELT beacon in my plane yet either. They should only cost maybe $300 tops and be legal for any licensed A&P to install, but because of artificially imposed bureaucratic bullshit the avionics makers and installers are forced to go thru, these new ELT's instead cost thousands of dollars to purchase and have installed.

Re:Cost of avionics (3, Insightful)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482885)

They should only cost maybe $300 tops and be legal for any licensed A&P to install, but because of artificially imposed bureaucratic bullshit the avionics makers and installers are forced to go thru, these new ELT's instead cost thousands of dollars to purchase and have installed.

Most people simply don't understand. The only thing preventing the light piston GA from becoming safer is the FAA! If the FAA's certification process were slimmed such that it actually made sense, allowing for competition to boot, owners would be more than happy to have the latest and greatest safety equipment in their planes. Many of the certification requirements date back to the late 50s and 60s, which predate computers and many technological advances. Until such time, the FAA and Congress is squarely responsible for maintaining the status quo for piston aviation safety.

If you must blame someone for many categories of aviation accidents and fatalities, look no further than the FAA! The sooner the public at large realizes the FAA is in fact the problem, the sooner they can be revamped allowing for increased safety.

It is an understatement to say, piston aviation safety has increased over the years in spite of the FAA. The FAA will tell you otherwise. The economics of aviation and owners will tell you the truth.

Re:New Becons cost too much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26482057)

They don't sell as many of them, and thus need to charge more to recoup costs.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

bds1986 (1268378) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482155)

I'm not a pilot, but I believe the cost is due to:
- The increased precision required of aviation units.
- Added features such as standby power that are unique to aviation.
- The fact that they are programmed with all sorts of aeronautical information (positions of beacons, approach patterns, etc). It costs money to license this information and include it in each unit.
- Additional cost to ensure each unit complies with FAA regs.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

ryturner (87582) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482661)

- The increased precision required of aviation units.

When everything it working, an aviation GPS that is used for IFR approaches is not any more accurate than a consumer grade GPS. But the aviation GPS does more checking to determine if the navigation information can be trusted.

- Added features such as standby power that are unique to aviation.

No, not really.

- The fact that they are programmed with all sorts of aeronautical information (positions of beacons, approach patterns, etc). It costs money to license this information and include it in each unit.

This doesn't increase the initial cost, but it is a pain to constantly be updating the GPS database.

- Additional cost to ensure each unit complies with FAA regs.

This is the big one!

Re:New Becons cost too much (2, Informative)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482675)

- The increased precision required of aviation units.

Doesn't exist unless you're talking about units which support WAAS [wikipedia.org] . Most units do not support WAAS. Besides, extra precision can be had for the cost of an extra GPS-IC; something less than $50 to the total cost of the unit.

- Added features such as standby power that are unique to aviation.

No such thing.

- The fact that they are programmed with all sorts of aeronautical information (positions of beacons, approach patterns, etc). It costs money to license this information and include it in each unit.

The information is government owned and as such, does not require licensing. In fact, it is public information.

- Additional cost to ensure each unit complies with FAA regs.

Bingo! Because it is aviation related, lawyers needlessly cause every component to cost 2x-4x its actual retail cost. Because it's aviation related, the FAA incurs an additional 2x-4x cost. Even then, Garmin is making money hands over fist because at $10,000 per unit, they have some $7,000+ profit per unit.

Don't forget, we live in a world where a $10 clock costs $150 thanks to lawyers and the FAA.

Re:New Becons cost too much (3, Informative)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482287)

A bit of an odd aside, but the first thing that struck me there was how much those GPS units cost. What makes them so different to normal consumer ones?

Liability and certification. That's it. Technologically speaking, owners pay a premium for an inferior, dated product.

The common cliche associated with the FAA; "We're not happy until you're not happy". The common FAA oxymoron, "We're the FAA and we're here to help."

Re:New Becons cost too much (4, Funny)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481703)

When you've had your plane for a decade, and it's all paid for, do you really want to spend $1200 (and our flying club was quoted more like $2500 installed) at a time when avgas is still at near record highs

Perhaps the government could pitch in $40 [dtv2009.gov] towards a converter box that makes the old beacons compatible with the new system, but doesn't function nearly as well as purchasing a whole new beacon. This $40 will be in the form of a coupon that can only be used to buy the converter box, and it can't be used towards the purchase of a new, and functionally superior, system.

Of course these coupons will become very popular as many people have old beacons that work just fine and can't justify the cost of a new one. The government will underestimate the demand for the coupons and run out of money for the program.

Re:New Becons cost too much (2, Informative)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482541)

For most owners, it doesn't work like that. You're basically asking, why isn't paying 1-10 extra payments, all at once a big deal? Many owners have to critically balance annuals, surprise repairs, oil changes, and normal wear and tear with fuel just so they can fly.

How about you suddenly spit up 10x your current car payment, all in one payment for an optional piece of equipment which has questionable value? The vast majority of light GA piston owners are NOT wealthy people. Rather, they are your lower to upper middle class people who choose to spend their hobby money flying.

Many owners are owners simply because planes are typically not financed like cars. Many planes can be financed as far out as 20 years. Many plane owners spend less in plane payment than many spend for a used car and often far, far, far less than many spend to own a bass boat.

Go tell a bass boat owner he needs to go spend 5x his boat payment on an optional piece of equipment. I bet you'll be wearing some concrete shoes pretty quick.

If you want to compare your typical plane owner with your typical boat owner, you'll find the boat owner is financially much better off.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

fprintf (82740) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481213)

This is really news to me! You mean you can get a fully functional, non-ultralight plan for $15K? That isn't so much a rich mans sport/hobby as it has been suggested. Maybe there is hope for private flight in .thisguys family yet! Thanks for the headsup AC, now on to Google looking for these inexpensive plans you mention... woot!

Re:New Becons cost too much (2, Informative)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481319)

You can check out www.barnstormers.com [barnstormers.com] or www.global-air.com [global-air.com] for inexpensive planes.

Bill

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

chappel (1069900) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481993)

You can indeed buy a used plane for $15000. However, to use the requisite car analogy, it'd be the equivalent of buying a $500 car - it's a car, and it'll run - mostly. The big difference is YOU can work on a car yourself; the FAA mandates only a certified aircraft mechanic (A&P) work on a certified aircraft, or optionally the original builder if it's experimental. Your drivers license cost about $100 and a couple weeks? A private pilot license will cost about $6000 and take six months if you really get after it; the FAA mandates at least 40 hours in a plane, typically 60, generally at $100+ per hour to rent the plane - note possible savings if you are flying your own - although the insurance coverage could be problematic until you have your license and/or a minimum number of hours total and / or hours in the plane. I would expect insurance to be at least $1000/yr, depending on the hull value of the plane and your experience. You take your car in for an annual inspection (maybe) for $25 - your mandatory airplane annual will be a good $500-$800 - assuming it doesn't uncover any problems. Also note that most aircraft engines have a suggested rebuild schedule at 2000 hours. You'll want to keep your new baby in hanger - expect $50/mo to well over $500/mo depending on how far in the sticks you live. Of course you'll want a good GPS ($2k for a lower-end handheld, $8k-$15k for a 'real' panel-mount IFR one) to let you know when you are approaching some arbitrary, invisible airspace restriction, and pay to keep the database current ($300/yr), and maybe some on-board weather (another $300+/yr - but oh-so-worth it if you fly cross country). I hope you understand why yet ANOTHER $1200 (although I'd heard they were closer to $300-$400 for a basic drop-in replacement) for an upgraded beacon that is renowned for not working when you need it (see: steve fossett) really annoys many pilots.

Depending on your goals, it can be much cheaper and easier to get a 'sport pilot' license (more info at http://www.sportpilot.org/ [sportpilot.org] ), but there are a number of restrictions - daylight flight only, only in a certified 'sport plane' - limited to 100 hp, two seats, no faster than 130 mph (?). Don't get me wrong - there are some mighty nice sport planes, but since the category is pretty new, you probably aren't going to find a $15000 sport plane (they are generally MUCH cheaper than new 'regular' planes, though)

Having said all that, keep in mind that an airplane is a long-term investment, and buying one is much closer to buying a cabin or other land (or at least it was - haven't checked recently) - you should be able to get a 15-20 yr low-interest loan, and they historically keep their value pretty well due to the rigorous maintenance requirements. If you are truly passionate about flying it's certainly possible to get a pilots license. If you want to fly recreationally look into joining a flying club and distributing the ownership costs, find a busy general aviation airport and start visiting and asking questions, talk to pilots and take some rides, make friends with some mechanics, learn about various models of planes in the price range you are looking at. You'll find many are pretty small if you are a large person, and some will be more comfortable than others, and there are differences in speed, range, weight capacity, operating cost (fuel burn, parts availability and maintenance costs, insurance) that have to be considered.

In summary - flying is awesome, if you have the desire by all means follow your dreams, but don't for a second think that $15000 is going to put you in the air, even if it might buy you a plane (well, it might if you go the flying club route). You don't have to be a millionaire, but you DO have to commit serious time and effort - and a chunk of cash - into it. I can, however, assure you it's worth it.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482835)

You listed a ton of hidden costs.

Care to do a sum it up for me with a total "buy in" cost for a decent plane (not a $500 car equivalent), GPS, new emergency beacon, pilot's license and a "yearly cost" including maintenance, a rough guess at fuel, and any license renewal shenanigans?

I could pour over your post and do it, but I don't understand this stuff that well and would probably fuck it up. Also, you didn't list the cost a "decent" plane.

Re:New Beacons cost too much (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482867)

Or, you can go the homebuilt route. Costs vary between 15k for a real basic one, to 100k or more for a big one with all sorts of fancy interiors, glass panels, etc. Something like a Sonex will run $25k or so; an RV-7 or -8 maybe $40k over a few years, plus build time. You do have to put in the effort to build it. It's not particularly hard, you just have to be willing to put in the time and have the necessary attention to detail.

The biggest advantages of homebuilts are that you can get better performance (speed, maneuverability, and/or efficiency) from a given size/cost of airplane, and you can do your own maintenance/annual inspections. You can make your own parts in many cases, and you don't have to pay a mechanic's labor fee. After all, you built it, and therefore know that airplane better than anyone else.

Owning and flying an airplane of any kind might take a few sacrifices, but it's nothing terribly hard. It just means you keep driving your old car instead of buying a new one every three years, or you stick with your old TV instead of buying the newest big flat-panel one.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481425)

You mean you can get a fully functional, non-ultralight plan for $15K? That isn't so much a rich mans sport/hobby as it has been suggested.

Yeah, but wait 'till you hear the bills for care and feeding. It's not like you can just leave it parked in your garage.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26483187)

Actually, it's what you make of it. You CAN leave your plane in the garage if you choose. There are several "trailerable" light aircraft on the market. You can also leave the plane at the airport for a monthly tiedown fee. My fee is currently $35 per month. My light plane (a Beechcraft Skipper) has to have an anual inspection every year at roughly $1000. Fuel is currently very high, in the ~$3.50 to $4.00 range. (Some places are higher due to taxes, etc.) But my plane gets better mileage than my pickup truck does.

If I budget about $200 per month, I can enjoy flying all year long. I don't consider that too expensive for a fun hobby.

Bill

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481591)

Heck I've seen some homebuilt planes for less than that. Functional EAA Biplanes, Sonerai, and a Rans S-9 I've seen under $10,000. Thing is if you weren't the building yourself you a) might have some trust issues with the workmanshp, and b) might have a hard time finding an A&P willing to do an annual on one of these. Probably not the best choice for beginner pilots either (particularly the Sonerai).

Still, there are a lot of options out there, including rental. I still haven't purchased a plane myself, and instead rent by the hour when I want to go up. There's 2 Cessna 150's that I rent (depending on which is available at the time, though I naturally have my preference for one of over the other :)), and they have an STC (basically an FAA approved modification) to run on automotive gas, so they're a lot cheaper than the ones running AVGAS. I currently pay $70/hr for the plane with fuel included.

One thing to be aware of though with old planes like the Taylorcraft, is that they were built many years ago when the average size of an American was . . . smaller, than now. It's a 2 seat airplane but don't expect to fit 2 adults in one if either of them is much over 170 lbs.

FWIW, if I ever to break down and buy a (used) plane I've been really looking at the Grumman Yankee AA-1 as a possible choice. They're relatively inexpensive and look interesting (Cessna's are so common that I'd never buy one).

If I were to put down a little money for a new plane, the Zlin Savage looks interesting (http://www.zlinaero.com/eng/classic.php). Basically a remake of the old Piper J-3 Cub but with some design improvements (front seat solo rather than rear) and modern avionics.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481437)

Most of the 406 EPIRB unit's I'm seeing are in the $350-500 range, is their some reason they are twice as expensive for GA aircraft?

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

ryturner (87582) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481683)

You are probably looking at hand held beacons that you manually activate. An ELT that mounts in your aircraft costs significantly more because it has G sensors to detect a crash and because it is a certified part. Also, installation is not cheap. It cost me $1500 to put one in my C-172. $1000 for the ELT and $500 for labor.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

horatio (127595) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481845)

Twice as expensive for general aviation aircraft* as compared to what? Commercial a/c, or consumer-grade land-based devices?

Nearly everything for aviation is more expensive than a land-bound counterpart. I think some of it is markup, but I think that more of it is the much, much lower tolerance for failure. (It is required by the CFRs that, for example, the engine oil is changed when the mfg says to change it, otherwise the a/c is no longer legal (airworthy) to be flown.) Equipment failure in flight can create an immediate, life-threatening situation - depending on what fails. Aviation ELTs also have to be engineered to survive a variety of conditions from severe impacts (otherwise what would be the point?), fire, extreme temperatures, submersion, etc.

From what I can tell, most of us are holding off on purchasing the 406's until the price comes down - which it will as purchase volume increases. But it will still never be as cheap as something you'd take hiking.

(*Apologies if I'm stating the obvious, it seems like maybe you are already familiar with the industry - most folks don't know what "GA" means.)

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482949)

Compared to marine units, they are rugged and waterproof. I doubt they are fire proof though (not sure how fireproof the GA ones are either).

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481481)

If you have $15000 to spend on a toy, you are a rich man.

Re:New Becons cost too much (2, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481567)


If you have $15000 to spend on a toy, you are a rich man.

You really think so?

Plenty of people spend A LOT more on second vacation homes, a boat, or even a sports car. Most of them aren't what anyone would consider "rich". It all depends on what you value. Some people just value being able to fly more than going up to a lake cabin.

Re:New Becons cost too much (2, Interesting)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481671)

Well I'd classify anybody with 2nd vacation home as rich, but yeah, $15,000 on an airplane doesn't make you rich.

Particularly as due to the way the financing works on many of these things, people never really pay that much for them. A lot of the loans for aircraft are structured oddly. They'll set them up for 7 years. Over those 7 years you have a fairly low monthly payment. Mostly just interest with a little principle thrown in. Once the 7 years are up, you get hit with a huge bill for the remaining balance.

Now, the thing to keep in mind is that many used airplanes are 20, 30, or even 60 or 70 years old. They've already depreciated about all they're going to - as long as they're maintained in good condition then they maintain a roughly equivalent value. So, people will buy that $15k or $20k airplane, essentially pay the monthly interest on the loan for 5 or 6 years, and then sell it again just in time to recoup their cost needed to pay off the loan at the end.

When broken into monthly payments like that, it's really not a lot.

Re:New Becons cost too much (2, Insightful)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482351)

Ya, people simply don't realize you can actually own a plane for less a month than what people often pay for a car; and way less than a used fishing boat.

People forget owners of nice fishing boats are likely are better off than many plane owners.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481741)

Yes, if you can afford second home you are rich.

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

ryturner (87582) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481969)

It all depends on what you value.

This is the key point. I own 25% of a plane and occasionally get comments about how it must be nice to be rich. But my non-aviation expenses are significantly less than anyone else I work with. I value having a plane more than I value having a nice car, house, being able to eat out frequently, etc.

All Toys (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26483207)

Plenty of people spend A LOT more on second vacation homes, a boat, or even a sports car.

Those are all toys. The parent's point remains valid. (Mind you, I'll declassify the boat if it is your home (eg. Quincey).)

Re:New Becons cost too much (2, Interesting)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482363)

$15K, over what time period?

I will spend somewhere in that range building my Dyke Delta over a 7 year period. That comes out to just under $6/day. I know "poor" people that spend more than that in cigarettes. I know high-schoolers that spend MORE than that going to movies. There are a LOT of people reading this forum that could point out $15K of audio-visual and computer equipment that they've bought over just the last few years.

$15K to spend on a permanent hobby in America is middle-class. Granted, by world standards that is still rich, but even the poor in America are rich to most of the world.

Rich man? NOT! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26482455)

If you have $15000 to spend on a toy, you are a rich man.

Maybe considered a rich man by someone living in a 3rd world country, but not by US standards.

Billybob Bubba Jr., who lives down the street and works for the city parks department and digs holes for a living is not a rich man, yet he can manage to afford a $15K bass boat.

Tyrone Washington, who lives in the projects and collects a welfare check (paid for by us taxpayers) is not a rich man, yet he can afford to spend $15K per year on bling, new name-brand designer clothes, and 30" chrome spinning rims for his $40K used Escalade.

Biff Gaylord, who lives in a small townhome with his buddy, and works as a hairdresser is not a rich man, but can afford a $15K Honda motorcycle.

Re:New Becons cost too much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26482805)

A new V6 Accord is about $15000 more than a certified used Civic. Are those rich man's toys?

Re:New Becons cost too much (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26483285)

A brand new car is a rich mans toy, yes. Poor people drive 10 year old beaters.

Not likely, either (1)

ptomblin (1378) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481137)

It's not likely that those 121.5 MHz ELTs will be replaced any time soon, either. The 406 MHz ones cost way more, and are very expensive to install. I expect that the only replacements will happen because people need to fly to another country that requires them, or because their old ELT crapped out and they can't get replacement parts any more.

Re:Not likely, either (1)

Beer_Smurf (700116) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481279)

Only the satellite monitoring is changing, the regular ELT monitoring is staying the same for traditional ELTs.
The 406 ELTs are great but are still in a "REV A" condition in such as they are expensive but are quickly getting smaller and less expensive.
Soon they will be competitive in price and will take over the market naturally.

Flare (1)

SebaSOFT (859957) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481203)

You tough you'd send a flare about this and it turned up to seed the sky with chaff

EPIRB on aircraft? (1)

hohokus (253713) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481229)

i wasn't aware that aircraft were required to have EPIRB's. boats, yes.. but aircraft? plausible, i guess, but i'd rather they stay in the air where they belong.

Re:EPIRB on aircraft? (2, Informative)

hohokus (253713) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481289)

ok.. so, there's my confusion. article linked to a coast guard site on EPIRBs, but we're really talking about ELTs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPIRB [wikipedia.org]

Call Obama! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26481243)

Maybe he'll push it back...

Ah, I guess not. Grey's Anatomy and Seinfeld reruns are more important.

Still Being Monitored in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26481377)

121.5 MHz will still be monitored in the US but you can't even fly an aircraft into Canada without a 406 MHz ELT. A personal locator beacon will not suffice for Canada. A lot of aircraft are switching over to a dual band unit so that they can be monitored anywhere.

If you never leave the US, it isn't a big deal.

What the... (1)

astrodoom (1396409) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481391)

Three stories in one summary?!? I just don't know what to respond to...brain melting...AAIIIIIGH!

More hype than necessary. (5, Informative)

Nobo (606465) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481405)

Yes, the existing ELT (Emergency Location Transmitter) beacons are no longer monitored by satellite. That does not mean they become useless. They broacast an audio tone on a radio frequency all civil and military aircraft can tune to.

Many pilots fly with their second radio continually tuned to this frequency, and I have been on flights in a general aviation flight where we have picked up beacons and reported them to ATC. More often than not, it's a hard landing that trips the beacon and the aircraft is parked on the ramp.

Finally, when your aircraft does go missing, these beacons are deliberately tuned by authorities doing search and rescue work, such as the Civil Air Patrol. Aircraft listen for and locate the general location of the beacon, and ground personnel locate the beacon with good directional antennas.

The (relatively) recent Fossett crash is a prime example of this -- His aircraft was not equipped with a ELT beacon at all (in violation of law) and had he been ELT equipped, he would have been found within a day.

The big thing that changes here is that, with the sattelites no longer monitoring, ATC will not get an automatic alert when a beacon turns on. This tech is spotty at best, however, and of course, 90% of ELT activations are false alarms anyways.

The new 406 Mhz beacons include a GPS reciever and actively transmit their location, such that rescue units simply get a waypoint on their GPS where the transmitter is downed. They are a far better technology, but the existing system does work well.

Overall, more hype than needed.

Re:More hype than necessary. (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481681)

The (relatively) recent Fossett crash is a prime example of this -- His aircraft was not equipped with a ELT beacon at all (in violation of law) and had he been ELT equipped, he would have been found within a day.

I hadn't heard this before, but my first thought now is WTF?!

What kind of reasons would there be for him doing something like that?

Re:More hype than necessary. (2, Informative)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481751)

likely not installed. The aircraft he flew was home built from a kit. From what I remember hearing it was the first time he had ever flown it any distance beyond takeoffs and landings, and his intention was to only be taking a 20-30 min flight and head back as a sort of long range test.

Re:More hype than necessary. (1)

Kyaphas (30519) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482141)

Um, no. It was a Bellanca Super Decathlon, not a homebuilt. Hit up the wikipedia article for more details. What you heard was completely wrong.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Fossett#Death [wikipedia.org]

AvWeb confirmation;
http://www.avweb.com/avwebflash/news/SteveFossett_MissingAviator_SuperDecathlonWreckageFound_198901-1.html [avweb.com]

Re:More hype than necessary. (1)

chappel (1069900) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482581)

Fossett was flying a Super Decathlon; not a home-built. you must be confusing this with some other incident (maybe the guy who crashed his just-completed plane in Vegas recently?) From the FAA report (http://www.ntsb.gov/NTSB/brief.asp?ev_id=20081007X17184&key=1):

"The airplane, a Super Decathlon, was a single engine, propeller-driven, tail-wheel fixed landing gear, two seat airplane, which was manufactured by Bellanca Aircraft Corporation in 1980. Its maximum takeoff gross weight was 1,800 pounds. It was powered by a Lycoming AEIO-360-H1A, reciprocating, air cooled, fuel injected engine. Annotations in the airplane's maintenance records indicated that its last annual inspection was performed on April 8, 2007. The airframe and engine each had 1,072 hours of flight time at the time of inspection.

"no ELT signal was received" - no mention of it having had it removed.

Fossett's plane did have an ELT. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26483281)

The ELT was destroyed by the crash. Additionally, the ELT's antenna was broken off the top of the fuselage, coax cable that connected the ELT to the antenna was severed. Even if the ELT would've survived the crash, its effective range without an antenna connected, would've been less than a mile.

Re:More hype than necessary. (1)

Nobo (606465) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481891)

The ELT is on the aircraft's MEL (Minimum equipment list), a set of equipment required for lawful operation of the aircraft. If an item on that list breaks, say, a radio, you're required by law to fix it before you fly again.

If your driver's seat belt in your car tore, it's illegal for you to operate it until you fix it. That said, there's nothing that keeps you from doing so, until you get pulled over and a cop notices. Much the same in the aircraft, except 'ramp checks' as they're called, are very uncommon, typically only administered as added pain after you already got caught for screwing up for other reasons.

ELTs are maintained yearly as part of the required annual inspection. If it fails, you might be tempted to fly for a while without it until you get it sorted, and then just forget and let it go. Stupid, but sometimes things get missed. Bravado might have had something to do with it too.

Re:More hype than necessary. (1)

ryturner (87582) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481807)

Not many of the new 406 ELTs contain a GPS receiver. Some are able to accept GPS information from a separate GPS receiver, but they are more expensive and installation is also more expensive. When I had a 406 ELT installed, I did not get the GPS option. The shop that did the work, said that only about 10% of his customers have gone for the GPS option.

Re:More hype than necessary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26482071)

Please quote the specific FAA regulation that requires a single pilot in a single plane to have an ELT. http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgFar.nsf/daa4c54debeb6dca86256f3400626ab0/0ca5c0070bd29144862569cf005f1030!OpenDocument

I have an ELT and an EPIRB in my plane. The EPIRB does not have a G switch and will not go off on impact. If I am ditching or survive the crash, I will manually activate it myself.

Re:More hype than necessary. (1)

Nobo (606465) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482501)

14 CFR 91.207 - Emergency locator transmitters.

(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section, no person may operate a U.S.-registered civil airplane unless-- ...
[An ELT is installed and maintained as described] ...
(f) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to-- ...
(9) Aircraft equipped to carry not more than one person; ...

If your aircraft has a second seat installed, you need an ELT. Occupancy of the seat is irrelevant.

Re:More hype than necessary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26482103)

And then mr Fosset would be less dead?
How often did the ELT save a live anyway?

Re:More hype than necessary. (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482139)

The (relatively) recent Fossett crash is a prime example of this -- His aircraft was not equipped with a ELT beacon at all (in violation of law) and had he been ELT equipped, he would have been found within a day.

First, it isn't against the law unless he was carrying passengers. The plane he was flying did not fall under those regs.

Second, the plane would only be found IFF the ELT was activated by and lived through the crash. Historically, the odds are about even that this will not be the case.

The big thing that changes here is that, with the sattelites no longer monitoring, ATC will not get an automatic alert when a beacon turns on. This tech is spotty at best, however, and of course, 90% of ELT activations are false alarms anyways.

The new 406 Mhz beacons include a GPS reciever and actively transmit their location, such that rescue units simply get a waypoint on their GPS where the transmitter is downed. They are a far better technology, but the existing system does work well.

For some value of "well". The current system is a congressionally mandated hack, rushed into production in the 70's when some congress-critter went missing while flying over Alaska. It barely works at all, and, due to the excessive amount of false alarms, it is debatable if it is better than nothing.

Overall, more hype than needed.

Granted. I've added the ELT to my 4-place Dyke Delta (search for it on Yahoo groups, I don't want my wimpy server slashdotted). They're cheap right now. I *might* add a 406Mhz beacon at some point in the future, but right now I'm thinking that APRS (http://www.vansairforce.com/community/forumdisplay.php?f=104) is a better technology for the type of flying I'm likely to be doing.

Re:More hype than necessary. (1)

Nobo (606465) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482687)

The (relatively) recent Fossett crash is a prime example of this -- His aircraft was not equipped with a ELT beacon at all (in violation of law) and had he been ELT equipped, he would have been found within a day.

First, it isn't against the law unless he was carrying passengers. The plane he was flying did not fall under those regs.

14 CFR 91.207 states that you need an ELT unless you fly an "aircraft equipped to carry not more than one person". The Decathalon having having the second seat installed requires the ELT. Occupancy of the seat is irrelevant.

Past that, agreed with all you say.

Delta? (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482961)

You have a Delta?
How are its flying characteristics?
I've been fascinated by them for years but haven't ever seen one or gotten to talk to someone who actually had one.
If you don't mind:
Did you make it?
What engine?
What's *your* approach speed? (I know what the specs say but there are plenty of planes that fly like crap at the stated approach/Vso speeds so everyone flies them faster.)
Likewise, what's *your* range?
How many people do you think it can carry comfortably?

New 406 Installs starting this year (4, Informative)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481577)

First, it is important to remember, only satellite monitoring for 121.5 ELT is stopping. Ground and air based monitoring is still ongoing. Secondly, CAP (Civil Air Patrol; Axillary Air Force) does not have equipment to track 406. Keep in mind, CAP performs the bulk of the required search and rescue operations in the US. All 406s I'm aware of have a dual mode of 121.5/406. This means it's more likely you'll actually be located by rescue crews using 121.5.

The problem is, because of the FAA, there is no competition. This means purchase plus install for a really nice 406 unit can cost in excess of $5000 for a $200-$400 ELT. Now that lower priced units, and units which are compatible with existing installs are finally starting to come onto the market you'll start to see increase in the number of installations. Yet the bulk of these installs will likely occur either during an aircraft's annual or when the existing ELT's battery requires replacement. The combination of the two means installs should start to increase sometime over the next 24-months.

In the meantime, many have elected to go with much cheaper solutions. Personal Locater Beacons (PLBs) and SPOT [findmespot.com] are very popular with pilots because they can be had at a fraction of the cost despite their reduced sized and increased capabilities.

The big advantage of the 406 ELT is the specification allows for a data component. Specifically, it allows an aircraft's GPS to continuously update the ELT with its current location. In the event of an emergency, the ELT can be manually armed or be set off from excessive G's (impact). Once set off, the ELT immediately transmits the last known location received from the GPS. This allows for very high accuracy position reporting. Of course the problem is, pilots want this capability and most existing manufacturers are attempting to rape owners.

Right now, Artex's ME406 [artex.net] is about the only reasonably priced unit available and it hasn't been on the market all that long.

Lastly, let's not forget satellite monitoring of 121.5 is really pretty crappy. Your typical detection window requires three satellites to pass overhead, ignoring the fact it can technically be done in two. The detection capabilities of the existing satellites are pretty crappy. And if one of the Russian satellites are in the mix, you may even require four satellite passes overhead before anyone is dispatched. This means you're looking at anywhere from 10-36 hours before someone picks up the phone to get people looking for you - unless you filed an optional flight plan. In the end, loss of satellite detection for 121.5, while certainly not good, is not really a nightmare scenario.

In the end, the best thing to do is to simply let someone know when you're flying, where you're going, the route you're taking, and the time you expect to arrive. Ideally, this is someone at your destination. And should you not show or be heard from, teach them to call the FAA or an official briefing station. At that time, they can immediately dispatch a search effort. Meaning, for many pilots, this is actually a better plan than filing a flight plan with the FAA. Routes which are not direct or too complicated to convey to laymen should be filed via flight plan.

And for those interested, here is a comparison of existing, alternative tracking solutions. [n6030x.com]

Re:New 406 Installs starting this year (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481689)

In the end, the best thing to do is to simply let someone know when you're flying, where you're going, the route you're taking, and the time you expect to arrive.

Opps, that should read:
In the end, the best thing to do is to simply let someone know when you're flying, where you're going, the route you're taking, and the time you expect to arrive, and the tail number of your aircraft.

Re:New 406 Installs starting this year (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26482303)

Secondly, CAP (Civil Air Patrol; Axillary Air Force) does not have equipment to track 406. Keep in mind, CAP performs the bulk of the required search and rescue operations in the US. All 406s I'm aware of have a dual mode of 121.5/406. This means it's more likely you'll actually be located by rescue crews using 121.5.

Speaking as a CAP member, "Workin on it..." ;-)
Several wings (states) have started getting the new equipment to support 406, but it won't be a "widespread" capability for a while longer.

If you want to get rescued, pay your taxes and ask your senator to ask the airforce to give us more funding for S&R gizmos.

Re:New 406 Installs starting this year (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26482945)

Many (most?) CAP planes have equipment to find the 406 beacons. CAP ground crews are also getting the handheld units to find these beacons. Regardless, the 406 beacons have a 121.5 beacon built-in so they can be found with the older equipment.

Not a priority (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 5 years ago | (#26481695)

What is this? Making a big deal out not monitoring a frequency that would potentially save lives when grandma's TV could stop working in just a matter of days. Have you no sense of perspective? Saving lives or making sure the American public has an uninterrupted stream of Wheel of Fortune? Come on now, wake up and smell the stale beer.

Re:Not a priority (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 5 years ago | (#26482215)

Not just Wheel of Fortune. High-Definition Wheel of Fortune.

Now that changes the equation a bit, doesn't it?

Need glasses and am hungry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26482763)

I misread that as 'February deadline for Emergency BACON Approaches'. My first thought was that it'd be useful in the event of a water landing my seat cushion could be used as a floatation device and is also filled with bacon.

Gonna pick some up on the way home from work now for tomorrow..
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