Wednesday, August 2, 2006

SAR 121.5 Mhz ELT Phase Out

The 121.5 Megahertz Emergency Location Transmitter (ELT) used for Search And Rescue (SAR) is being phased out.
It is being replaced with a newer more powerful 406 Mhz ELT.
They put these ELTs in plane and boats and make a smaller version for hikers.
The idea is that when a plane crashes, a boat sinks, or a hiker gets lost the ELT will start transmitting.
The ELT can be activated automatically or manually.

Not that any of you care,
But this is the thing I was trained to go find back when I was in Civil Air Patrol (CAP).
The SARSATs (Search And Rescue Satellites) would pick up the signal and and give us a rough estimate of the location.
The ELT was supposed to be within a 20 mile radius,
But that rarely happened.

The SARSATs have to orbit three times to verify that the signal is a real distress signal.
Then AF RCC (Air Force Rescue Coordination Center) calls CAP,
CAP passes the info down through Region, Wing, Group, then to Squadron.
A team is assembled at the Squadron level and sent out.
This whole process takes a rather long time.
And then the team has to actually find the ELT.
A process that can take anywhere from 2-48 hours.

This reason this whole process takes so long is mainly because of the limited information available at the beginning of the mission.
The only location info we get comes from the satellites ability to determine it from the signal direction.
Accuracy is severely limited because the 121.5 Mhz ELT only emits a .1 Watt signal.
The new 406 Mhz ELT will transmit a 5 Watt signal, narrowing accuracy to 2 miles using signal alone.
When coupled with a GPS unit, as many of them will be, the 406 Mhz ELT’s accuracy becomes 100 yards.
That’s a significant improvement over 20+ miles.
This alone should help reduce SAR mission times.

The only downside to all this,
We’ll need to get new equipment.
Our current ELPER (the unit we use to determine the direction of the signal) only receives 121.5, 121.7, and 243 (121.7 is our training frequency).
The new equipment will be expensive,
But it’ll be worth it.
(Plus the fact that congress sends money for this helps)

9 comments:

  1. So yall are still using this stuff up there?

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  2. Yeah,
    Military uses 243 Mhz.
    (I think)
    We'll ahve to change our stuff in the military as well.

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  3. Well, it sounds like it will work better. And you didn't say that you would need to be retrained or anything...

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  4. Nope,
    The new toys will just pick up a different frequency.
    They'll operate the same way.
    (At least thats the best I can tell)

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  5. Can't wait to see this come up on SG.

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  6. So the bottom line is yall get a new and improved toy that will cut the time it takes to save lives!

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  7. I didn't understand a word of that, but FYI, CAP also stands for Communications Access Partnership. It's an interpreting registry.
    You can hire interpreters (for about $90/hour).
    I thought about applying there, but I really need to dharpen my skills first.
    But then, look at me, I'm rambling.
    *wanders off*

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  8. Wow.. that's a lot of abreviations... good thing I understand it all... or is that?

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  9. CAP also stands for Combat Air Patrol...:D

    Sounds good, better tech toys.

    Oh, and congress doesn't send you money. The taxpayers do. :D

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