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  #1  
Old 10-23-2013, 10:29 AM
MS19087's Avatar
MS19087 MS19087 is offline
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: West Chester, PA
Posts: 769
Unhappy My ELT activated in-flight causing panic to family and friends

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!!

Lessons learned:

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.

Thoughts?
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RV-9A; Built, Flown & Sold
RV-14A; Building
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  #2  
Old 10-23-2013, 11:07 AM
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az_gila az_gila is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: 57AZ - NW Tucson area
Posts: 10,011
Exclamation

I would start looking at the telephone cable that connects the indicator on the panel to the ELT.

Perhaps twisting/misalignment at the cheap telephone connectors?
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Gil Alexander
EAA Technical Counselor, Airframe Mechanic
Half completed RV-10 QB purchased
RV-6A N61GX - finally flying
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  #3  
Old 10-23-2013, 02:29 PM
BobTurner BobTurner is offline
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Livermore, CA
Posts: 7,856
Default

All new ELT installations - by definition that would be any 406 MHz unit - require a switch and indicator light within the pilot's view. Do you have one? If the light did not come on, check the wiring. Is it possible you bumped the switch to "on"?
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  #4  
Old 10-23-2013, 02:43 PM
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Dvalcik Dvalcik is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Royersford, PA
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by MS19087 View Post

Thoughts?

Glad your ok and you can now buy dinner and drinks for your flying buddies (Sat is open)
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  #5  
Old 10-23-2013, 02:57 PM
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Walt Walt is online now
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Dallas/Ft Worth, TX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobTurner View Post
All new ELT installations - by definition that would be any 406 MHz unit - require a switch and indicator light within the pilot's view. Do you have one? If the light did not come on, check the wiring. Is it possible you bumped the switch to "on"?
And an audible alert is now required with a 406 install to let you know its been activated.
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Last edited by Walt : 10-23-2013 at 09:01 PM. Reason: clarification
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  #6  
Old 10-23-2013, 03:13 PM
Al RV8 Al RV8 is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Schwenksville PA
Posts: 46
Default Dinner and Drinks????

This Sat. is not good for me. We would have to move dinner out a week.
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  #7  
Old 10-23-2013, 04:03 PM
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flyboy1963 flyboy1963 is offline
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Lake Country, B.C. Canada
Posts: 2,434
Default ..and monitor!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Walt View Post
And an audible alert.
I think we should take this as a reminder to add to our 'cruise' and 'after landing' checklist.

...monitor 121.5

the life ( or embarassment) you save ....may be someone else's too!
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  #8  
Old 10-23-2013, 04:07 PM
az_gila's Avatar
az_gila az_gila is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: 57AZ - NW Tucson area
Posts: 10,011
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by BobTurner View Post
All new ELT installations - by definition that would be any 406 MHz unit - require a switch and indicator light within the pilot's view. Do you have one? If the light did not come on, check the wiring. Is it possible you bumped the switch to "on"?
My thought was a cable fault could cause an "activate" signal, perhaps without the "transmitting" light coming on.

There are only four wires involved...
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EAA Technical Counselor, Airframe Mechanic
Half completed RV-10 QB purchased
RV-6A N61GX - finally flying
Grumman Tiger N12GA - flying
La Cholla Airpark (57AZ) Tucson AZ
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  #9  
Old 10-23-2013, 04:17 PM
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RV7A Flyer RV7A Flyer is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: US
Posts: 2,527
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walt View Post
And an audible alert.
Hmmm...I don't believe 406 is required; 121.5 is still legal, just not monitored by satellites.

And..."audible alert"? How? My ELT has no "audible alert" line out to which to connect anything (nor is there any mention of it in the installation manual).

I think perhaps you mean "or" and not "and"?

Could be all wrong, because I think they're deadweight anyway (which is why I have a PLB on the harness), so I went as cheaply as possible. But it's still legal AFAIK.
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  #10  
Old 10-23-2013, 08:52 PM
RVDan RVDan is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Frederick, MD
Posts: 942
Default

Yep, you are right 406Mhz ELT's aren't required, but they sure are more effective.

By the TSO they have both the switch unit with a visual light and an audible alert that activate when the ELT is transmitting.

If you have a 121.5 ELT it is a dead weight- no one is listening.

If I had to have an ELT, it might as well be doing some good. 406 with GPS input gets the SAR folks right to you if you need it.

I hope it is $700 spent that I will never use.
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