So yesterday was my son's birthday. He is at university in Winston-Salem, NC so I figured I'd fly down from Philadelphia in the AM, have lunch and be back by sunset. Due to headwinds, flight was planned for 2 hrs and 40 mins. Apparently 40 minutes into the flight my 406 Mhz ELT activated. This ELT also has GPS data as well. This prompted the Air Force SAR Center in Florida to call my listed contacts. Needless to say my contacts got very spun up. Thankfully I was in the system, using flight following in continuous contact with the many ATC centers along my route. IN ADDITION, I had my APRS tracker operating.
My upset fiancee called my flying buddies who quickly went online to view my APRS track and also FlightAware. The APRS track data gave everyone some comfort that i was likely not in peril. In the meantime when I landed 2 hours after the activation, my cell phone was loaded with missed calls and text messages. With that I tuned to 121.5 and sure enough, I could hear the distress tone. I immediately hit the reset button and it silenced. BTW - Return flight was uneventful with a nice tailwind - home in 2 hrs
. Monitored 121.5 the whole way home when I could.
So help me with a few questions:
1) What would cause my ELT to activate in flight? Air was smooth, no turbulence.
2) I appreciate the matter of urgency the Air Force has when reacting to a distress signal, but why don't they contact the FAA too? I was in the system, the FAA could have provided some info as well as contacting me to silence the beacon.
3) I called the Air Force for further information as to how the event was handled. They told me my beacon was received by the satellite with my GPS coordinates. I asked whether they received multiple locations given that I was moving and at a steady altitude. Their comment was that they received one alert and then acted, when another alerts were received (AFTER ANOTHER SATELLITE PASS) they said that they tend to assume one of the locations was in ERROR!!
1) Monitor 121.5 when possible during all flights.
2) I was very happy that I had my APRS tracker turned on - gave friends and family more data to understand my fate. Be sure to let family and friends know how to track you online.
3) A personal locator or APRS tracker is a great tool - however would love to be able to send and receive messages through the APRS tracker. SPOT has this feature which really allows for confirmation of situation.