September 20, 2018

Are Our ELTs Failing Us?


Over the last year or so a number of aircraft have gone missing in the mountains of British Columbia and, in most cases, an ELT signal had not been received. In June of 2017, a rented Piper Warrior with two people on board left Lethbridge airport (YQL) bound for Kamloops airport (YKA) in south-central B.C., but never arrived. They were last seen at Cranbrook airport (YXC), where they made a refueling stop. Their plane was equipped with an ELT, but no signal was ever received.

Last week’s eFlight reported that the wreckage of a Mooney M20 that had gone missing last November had been discovered near Rogers Pass earlier this month. It too was equipped with an ELT, but a signal was never received.

And just last week, an RV6 with a couple from Chilliwack went missing on a flight from the Edmonton area to Chilliwack (YCK). An extensive search has just been called off with no results. No ELT signal has been reported, but it is unclear at this time whether the aircraft was equipped with one.

In a high-profile crash two years ago that involved an ELT-equipped Cessna Citation carrying, among others, former Alberta premier Jim Prentice, the ELT did not activate, although the wreckage’s proximity to Kelowna airport made it easy to find.

In an article that appears in this month’s COPA Flight, contributor Phil Lightstone writes that, according to a recent study by the Department of National Defence, ELTs activated in only 38 percent of Canadian aircraft accidents, raising questions as to the effectiveness of these mandatory devices.

Is spaced-based ADS-B a potential solution? COPA’s position has long been that any ADS-B mandate must include a replacement for these antiquated ELTs.

For more discussion on this topic, read Eye In The Sky in this month’s COPA Flight, and keep an eye on the upcoming eFlights; the file is advancing quickly.