On July 1 2008, it became compulsory for all New Zealand-registered aircraft to be equipped with a properly installed, registered, automatic 406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT). Aircraft that don’t comply with this rule will not be able to operate.
What is an ELT?
Emergency Location Transmitters (ELT’s) are designed for aviation use. They are hard-wired into the aircraft. They are fitted to activate on impact or can be activated manually.
What kind of ELT do I need?
There is a wide range of ELTs available for use in the air. The best ELTs have GPS coordinates integrated into their signal, which dramatically improves their accuracy. This means your location can be identified by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) on the first contact with a satellite. Without GPS it would require two satellites to pick up your beacon signal, to resolve the ambiguity of the satellite positions. The time between satellite passes varies greatly, ranging between 20 minutes and 4.5 hours.
In some situations you could also use a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). PLBs are small enough to fit in your pocket and are activated manually. They are available either as standard models or with the addition of GPS. You will need to discuss your ELT requirements with your aircraft maintainer.
Civil Aviation ELT Rule Synopsis
Commencing 1 July 2008, with certain exceptions, all New Zealand-registered aircraft must be equipped with a properly installed, registered automatic 406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) in order to operate. Aircraft being ferried to a place to have a 406 MHz ELT installed, with no passengers onboard are exempt.
Commencing 1 July 2008, one-seat aircraft will not require a registered automatic 406 MHz ELT if the pilot is carrying a registered 406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitter-Survival (ELT(S)), or a registered 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).
Gliders and microlights
Commencing 1 July 2008, gliders and microlights will not require a registered automatic 406 MHz ELT if at least one person is carrying a registered 406 MHz (ELT(S)) or a registered 406 MHz PLB. A glider or powered aircraft, including a microlight, with no more than two seats, is not required to have a registered automatic 406 MHz ELT, an ELT(S) or a PLB if they remain within 10 nautical miles of their aerodrome, but are strongly advised to at least carry a 406 MHz PLB.
Manned free balloons are not required to be equipped with a 406 MHz ELT or PLB but are strongly advised to at least carry a PLB.
Where should I keep my distress beacon?
Where you keep your distress beacon depends on the type of beacon and where you are using it.
ELTs come with a mounting bracket and should be mounted and permanently hard-wired into the aircraft. PLBs carried by the pilot should be readily accessible.
Keep the beacon away from:
- equipment that may accidentally knock the activation switch
- magnetic sources, such as microphones and radio speakers (some beacons are activated by a magnetic on/off switch)
- high water pressure
- children who may accidentally turn it on.
Note: If you are moving beacons, always make sure they are in the 'safe' or 'off' mode.
Both ELTs and PLBs should be checked before and after a flight to ensure they have not been activated accidentally.
Be aware of false alarms – beacons carried on aircraft can be activated automatically by shock when an aircraft makes a 'hard landing', taxies, or is moved over a rough surface. If the beacon is accidentally activated, switch it off and advise RCCNZ immediately by ringing 0508 472 269. There is no penalty but you can save considerable search effort by making an early phone call.
406 MHz ELTs have to be tested and inspected every 12 months, or 100 hours of air time. This is normally carried out from the cockpit. Because this test involves transmissions from the beacon it must not last longer than 5 seconds. PLBs should be tested and inspected in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
What will happen with the 121.5 MHz signal?
While the 121.5 MHz signal continues to be monitored by over flying aircraft and the frequency is still be used for directional purposes, from February 2009, 121.5 MHz is NOT monitored by satellites, so an alert may not be raised and the satellites will no longer be able to provide a search area.
Don't buy a foreign 406 MHz beacon!
Each country has an individual 406 code. When you purchase a 406 MHz distress beacon, make sure it is coded for New Zealand. The New Zealand Country Code is 512. If you buy one from overseas or over the Internet, it could be an expensive mistake. When it is activated the satellite may notify the wrong rescue coordination centre which could mean a long, potentially life-threatening delay in your rescue.
You must register your new beacon
This means search and rescue can contact you to verify activation if your beacon goes off. This improves search response time and cuts down on false alarms. Once your beacon is registered, you will need to keep your details up to date and notify the register if the beacon changes ownership.
Registration is FREE. To
register your beacon, contact RCCNZ:
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or
Phone 0800 406 111