Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2018 issue
*The Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system uses National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites in low-earth and geostationary orbits, as well as GPS satellites in medium-earth orbit to detect and locate aviators, mariners, and land-based users in distress. The satellites relay distress signals from emergency beacons to a network of ground stations and ultimately to the U.S. Mission Control Center (USMCC) in Suitland, Maryland.
The USMCC processes the distress signal and alerts the appropriate search and rescue authorities as to who is in distress and, more importantly, where they are located. Truly, SARSAT takes the “search” out of search and rescue!
NOAA-SARSAT is a part of the international Cospas-Sarsat Program to which 41 nations and two independent SAR organizations belong.
*All of the above is taken directly from the NOAA SARSAT website at: http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/
And by the way… Federal law requires that all emergency locator transmitters (ELTs), personal locator beacons (PLBs), and emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs), be registered with NOAA SARSAT.
Registration is free and can be done online or by contacting the NOAA SARSAT Beacon Registration Database at 1-888-212-SAVE (7283). Registration should also be updated if the aircraft or device is sold or when owner information changes.
Check this out… Current NOAA SARSAT statistics:
Number of people rescued in Calendar Year 2017 in the United States: 62
Rescues at sea: 31 people rescued in 9 incidents.
Aviation rescues: 6 people rescued in 2 incidents.
Terrestrial PLB rescues: 25 people rescued in 11 incidents.
United States – 8,385 People Rescued (since 1982)
One more thing…
NOAA SARSAT wants to educate the entire GA community about how to avoid false alerts. They are happy to include training on proper test procedures, as well as what to do if your device is accidentally activated. According to SARSAT, false alerts from accidental activation of 406 MHz ELTs by aircraft operators is a major issue, with more than 8,500 false alerts recorded in 2017. If a beacon is accidentally activated, the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center should be contacted at 1-800-851-3051. Officials will need the beacon’s ID to cancel the false alert.
Remember, NOAA SARSAT stopped listening for beacons on 121.5 MHz, February 1, 2009. So, if you still have one in your aircraft, you need to know it will not be heard by SARSAT. This is a good time to upgrade your equipment and get switched over to the new 406 MHz beacons. And here are a few important facts to help you make the decision to upgrade your equipment right away: The old 121.5 MHz (VHF) beacon produced a signal footprint of from 12-15 nautical miles wide. The 406 MHz beacon produces a more accurate signal footprint of about 1-3 nautical miles.
Did you know that the old 121.5 MHz system’s initial position of uncertainty result was a 500 square mile search area on average, whereas the 406 MHz system with a non-GPS equipped beacon produces an initial position of uncertainty result of a 25 square mile search area on average. A beacon that is GPS equipped can produce a search area result of less than 100 yards.
For additional information, go to: http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/