EPIRBs

Submitted: Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 14:58
ThreadID: 65941 Views:3250 Replies:4 FollowUps:27
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Gidday

There is an item in The West Australian newspaper today that might add something to the old v new EPIRB discussion.


I can't find a link to the story on The West's hopeless website.

The gist of it is that a caretaker at a small mine 30km east of Kalgoorlie was injured in a fall on Tuesday but managed to crawl to his hut and activate his old analogue epirb and chuck it outside. The signal was picked up by a plane at 11,000m and the search started. It was another 5 hours before it was heard again by a plane at 3000m which then lost the signal. Another plane was sent out from Kal to help in the search. The newspaper says a satellite passed over the aea 20 times but took time to pinpoint his position because of the changed technology. Police set out on Wednesday but had difficulty in finding the beacon along what was a described as a secluded track. "It's probably a stroke of luck that we actually found the right track to go down and locate him" one said. The man who has a broken hip and internal injuries lay 27 hours before help came. He is hospital in a critical but stable condition.

Rocco



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Reply By: Member - Mick O (VIC) - Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 15:19

Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 15:19
Interesting Rocco,

I've got one of the old EPIRBS AND a globalstar sat phone. I'm truly stuffed Ha Ha! Still saving for a new one.

Cheers Mick
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903

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Reply By: rocco2010 - Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 15:27

Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 15:27
Mick

I read your blogs (which are a highlight of this site) and I reckon you'd be safe with not much more than a box of matches to start a signal fire

Ross
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Follow Up By: Member - Mick O (VIC) - Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 15:50

Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 15:50
Ha, glad you're enjoying them Rocco. It's amazing what you can learn from people you meet along the way (and on this site in particular). Must make a bit of time to get a few more on.

Cheers. Mick
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
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Follow Up By: rocco2010 - Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 16:52

Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 16:52
Mick

I want to know what happened in those missing days in the Kimberley. One day you were at Mitchell Plateau (I think) and then abt two weeks later you were escaping the Kununurra Curse. It's like missing episodes of the soaps ...
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Follow Up By: Member - Mick O (VIC) - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 21:11

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 21:11
My travels as a soap..lol. Now there's a story in itself. Yeah I'm slowly getting them up, putting what I reckon would be the most interesting to people first. The better half and I were on the road for the best part of a year in 06 plus the couple of months a year since then (not even mentioning the earlier trips from the late 70's and early 80's). I'm currently getting video loaded up from last years trip up to Rudall to update some of the July 08 entries. At least we escaped The Big K to get onto the Canning and more drama's.

I'll work on a few this week.

Cheers Mick.
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903

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Reply By: VH-GU4 - Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 17:25

Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 17:25
The old EPIRBs will always work as they operate on an aviation frequency 121.500 but not many aircraft monitor this frequency. It is no where near as accurate for homing into a signal as the new 406 is.
AnswerID: 348894

Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 18:04

Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 18:04
Yes the old ones will "work", but based on the fact that 95% of their historic use was false alarms, the question is whether anyone will respond to them, or not, a year from now.
The authorities have said that they won't.
I won't be betting my life (or that of my family) that they will.
This is why there is a new (registered) devise.

Cheers,
Peter
OKA196 Motorhome
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Follow Up By: Rossc0 - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 10:59

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 10:59
How many times do we have to say this.

A beacon on 121.5 must be responded to.

All aviation related personnel (pilots, atc, whoever) who hear a beacon on 121.5 are required to act on it, there is no option.

Remember the 406 beacons also transmit on 121.5 so how do you know it's not a 406 beacon that has not yet been picked up by the satellites, it can be upto 90 minutes before a satellite receives the signal as they are not geostationary and one may not be in line of sight.

What authorities have said they won't respond? What won't respond to them is the satellites as they have no capability to receive 121.5/243.

As an aside we have had two here picked up on 121.5 since 1 Feb both were old beacons removed and replaced with 406 beacons but then mishandled prior to proper disposal, all appropriate actions were taken to ensure that it was not someone genuinely in distress.

Cheers
Ross
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Follow Up By: Member - Mike DID - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 11:24

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 11:24
The statements about the EPIRB changeover state that the satellites will no longer be monitoring the 121.5 frequency.

It's a sad refelection on peoples' comprehension ability, that what they understand is that 121.5 will not be monitored AT ALL.
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Follow Up By: Rolly - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 13:55

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 13:55
Thanks, Rossc0.

Saved me another blast at the "experts" who populate the interwebs.

Always remember the adage:

"Bull$h1t Baffles Brains"

Which is prolly why my intracranial activity now only functions in an uncontrolled and random fashion.

(Note to self - Must get away from this plurry computer and interface with the real world occasionally 8D )
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Follow Up By: aroundwego - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 14:06

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 14:06
Regarding your comment:
--------------------------------------------------------------
"It's a sad refelection on peoples' comprehension ability, that what they understand is that 121.5 will not be monitored AT ALL."
-----------------------------------------------------------------

I disagree. Because EPIRBS are part of a global distress system that no longer monitors 121.5.

There is no requirement for any aircraft to guard/monitor 121.5 - the only reason they do it is because it is a company policy.

Aircraft in Australia are only required to listen on 121.5 prior to start up and shut down so they can check that their beacon is not accidentally on.

There are areas within the globe that aircraft will monitor 121.5 - such as an ADIZ- but those areas and requirements are established and promulgated as required.

With the increased growth of RAA (over GA) the chance is reduced further as they do not have any requirement to carry radios.

IF, an aircraft does "just happen" to hear a 121.5 transmission, they report it. Then ATC will request aircraft transiting through that area to listen out.

The detections since 01 FEB have all just been "CHANCE"

AMSA (Aussar) have been advertising to people for the last 5 years that from 01 FEB they will no longer be monitoring 121.5.

Considering AMSA is the only organisation within Australia with the responsibility of monitoring EPIRBS - it is quite understandable that people say that it wont be monitored.

So yes its true that if a 121.5 is detected by chance, then AUSSAR is responsible for coordinating a response - but if you are in Distress and someone finds you it is just "LUCK".

I suppose Im a bit passionate about it - but (as a disclaimer) - I work in Aussar and am one of the team that monitors and responds to EPIRBs :)
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Follow Up By: Rossc0 - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 14:41

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 14:41
While I agree we should all be using 406 beacons and would not be without one myself, a blanket statement that no will be listening on 121.5 is really not helpful.

The detections here were not chance, both were by airline aircraft monitoring 121.5 in flight. Not while starting up or shuting down.

Military aircraft also have 243 permanently active (or did last time I talked to a military pilot) and a beacon on 121.5 will come up on that.

It could also be said that prior to 1 Feb all reception on 121.5 was by "chance", especially before the activation of the first satellite system when the only way for it to be picked up was by aircraft in flight.

So yes there may be places where 121.5 is not being monitored on a regular basis 24/7 but in general there will still be coverage for a lot of Australia.

Cheers
Ross
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Follow Up By: Rossc0 - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 14:55

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 14:55
"The old EPIRBs will always work as they operate on an aviation frequency 121.500 but not many aircraft monitor this frequency. It is no where near as accurate for homing into a signal as the new 406 is."

All airline aircraft currently monitor 121.5 while in flight, company policy and there appears to change to this policy.

Aircraft can't home on 406 (they only have VHF) that's why the new beacons still transmit on 121.5 as well.

Without GPS in the beacon the satellite will give about 5km radius of where the beacon probably is.

With GPS in the beacon it's about 100m.

With 121.5 in open terrain then an aircraft flown by a competent pilot should be able to home into 1km and usually within about 100m.

Cheers
Ross
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Follow Up By: aroundwego - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 15:04

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 15:04
Ross

You are entitled to your own comments, but Im sorry Its chance. No aircraft has to monitor 121.5 as part the global distress network. It is can be extremely difficult and frustrating to try and locate a 121.5 beacon based a report from a hgh flyer.

Me personally I just dont understand why people want to argue the fact that the system has changed.

If you want to take an old beacon with a rated activation period of 24 hours as your only means of survival - go ahead its your choice. But I dont understand why people want to give the wrong advice to others.

I will leave it cause Im dont want to create an argument, but here is the reference for EPIRBs in Australia. Wish I hope others may use to research their choice
http://beacons.amsa.gov.au/distress_beacons.asp
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Follow Up By: aroundwego - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 15:05

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 15:05
I should just add that some aircraft and boats CAN home on 406.

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Follow Up By: Jarse - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 16:19

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 16:19
Without a searchmeter or VHF direction finder the average (non-SAR trained) pilot would have a very difficult job of carrying out a homing procedure. (Normal aircraft have neither). That's because homing without the aid of a direction finder requires specific training which is not part of the civil flying training syllabus. So, unless there is a dedicated search aircraft in the area not much is going to happen for a very long time (longer than the 90 minutes alluded to for the sat to pick it up and accurately locate it).

As airline pilots, we are NOT required to monitor 121.5 by any regs at any phase of flight. Company procedures usually "recommend" it, however, this is on the #2 COMM which is also used for a lot of the flight for other communication purposes. Even when the frequency is being monitored there is no guarantee a beacon on 121.5 will even break the squelch.

This happened to me yesterday on the way from Sydney to Melbourne. For the short period we were monitoring 121.5 on departure we heard nothing. ATC asked us if we could hear a beacon. (No, we could not). I disabled squelch and we could hear one. We reported back (workload permitting) and left it there.

So, if we weren't alerted to its presence, we would never have heard it...

I can assure you Ross that it would be extremely rare for any commercial aircraft (airline or G/A) to actively participate in a search for a beacon for many reasons. One being most only carry sufficient fuel for A-B plus reserves. The limit of our responsibility when responding to a beacon is to "call it in". That's it.

Also, a 121.5 beacon will NOT come up on 243 equipment unless it specifically transmits on 243. (A lot of older aviation-type EPIRBS have dual transmitters).

I wish everybody luck with their 121.5 beacons :-)
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Follow Up By: Member - Mike DID - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 18:25

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 18:25
- "I will leave it cause I don't want to create an argument, but here is the reference for EPIRBs in Australia. Wish I hope others may use to research their choice - http://beacons.amsa.gov.au/distress_beacons.asp"

. . . . and here's what AMSA actually says there -

"Distress beacon owners must make the switch to 406 now as 121.5 MHz distress beacons are no longer detected by satellite."

NOWHERE does AMSA say that 121.5 beacons will NOT be monitored any longer !

You need to understand the difference between users who MUST have 406 EPIRBs (offshore boats and public transport aircraft) and those who have no legal requirement to carry EPIRBs.

Many who have no requirement to carry a 406 EPIRB simply will not spend $600 to get a 406 EPIRB - the choice is then keep the 121.5 EPIRB or carry nothing.

I've seen nothing to convince people to throw away the 121.5 EPIRB.




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Follow Up By: Member - Mike DID - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 18:32

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 18:32
"Without a searchmeter or VHF direction finder the average (non-SAR trained) pilot would have a very difficult job of carrying out a homing procedure. (Normal aircraft have neither). That's because homing without the aid of a direction finder requires specific training which is not part of the civil flying training syllabus. "

. . . . .EVERY pilot should know that there are simple instructions in ERSA on how to use a standard COM radio to localise an EPIRB transmission.



- " Even when the frequency is being monitored there is no guarantee a beacon on 121.5 will even break the squelch. "

. . . .do you discard all solutions that aren't 100% perfect.



- "I can assure you Ross that it would be extremely rare for any commercial aircraft (airline or G/A) to actively participate in a search for a beacon for many reasons. "

. . . . no-one expects that. That's why search aircraft are despatched.

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Follow Up By: Member - Mike DID - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 18:38

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 18:38
"I suppose Im a bit passionate about it - but (as a disclaimer) - I work in Aussar and am one of the team that monitors and responds to EPIRBs :)"

I've worked on gound Search and Rescue for lost people since 1972.

If every lost person had carried an emergency beacon that worked, it would have been so much easier and faster - for them and us.

A half-hour aircraft search to localise the lost party and then the rescue. Much preferable to days of searching for a needle in a haystack, sometimes with no find at all.
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Follow Up By: Member - Mike DID - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 18:41

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 18:41
The most educational seach was on Hook Island in 1983 - the lost party was found by a ground party.

She was ropable about the search aircraft - "he flew right past me - I was jumping up and down on open ground and waving my jumper - but he flew right past me !"
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Follow Up By: Jarse - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 19:19

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 19:19
Well, good for you Mike,

I wish you luck with your 121.5 EPIRB.

We can go on about the semantics of pilots searching for EPIRBS till the cows come home. Yes I've read the publications since before ERSA was promulgated. It's a 2 paragraph explanation with a pretty diagram which I can assure you takes a little more skill than what you've probably read. That's a "touchy feely" exercise to make people feel good.

For it to work you need somebody not only capable, but willing and able to undertake a search.(I stand by my statement in my previous post regarding MOST aircraft being unable to participate in a search).

Then, if that falls over, you want to hope that AMSA has a serviceable aircraft AND crew to operate it. (If you're in NSW the closest aircraft is in Brisbane). Because that's all that will be looking for you with your 121.5 beacon.

1972, 1983. Pretty much irrelevant in 2009 with the new technology and the way most people are moving on with SAR technology.

I'm not disrespecting you Mike, but I speak from almost 30 years as a pilot. What are your credentials?
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Follow Up By: aroundwego - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 19:29

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 19:29
"............NOWHERE does AMSA say that 121.5 beacons will NOT be monitored any longer ! "

Considering the only system in place to "permanently" monitor epirbs is the satellite system - it is a true comment that they are there is no longer a system in place to monitor 121.5


".........Many who have no requirement to carry a 406 EPIRB simply will not spend $600 to get a 406 EPIRB - the choice is then keep the 121.5 EPIRB or carry nothing. I've seen nothing to convince people to throw away the 121.5 EPIRB. "

Okay - your right. If you have nothing else then at least you have a chance that your old one might save you. About $380 will get a good 406.

As you said if you have one and someone is looking for you they can home on it.

The point I have really just been trying to make is that - there is no longer any system set that is required to or whose role is to monitor 121.5 beacons.

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Follow Up By: Jarse - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 20:19

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 20:19
Aroundwego,

No use banging your head against a wall, because, as you know, all you do is hurt your head.

You and I know what's going on in the land of the living (and SAR in the 21st century). Personally, the lives of my family and I are worth more than hanging on (to the off chance that somebody might be listening out for me on some 121.5 beacon).

Might as well listen to AM radio :)

I'll take the option that is the standard for SAR in 2009 thanks :-)
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Follow Up By: Member - Mike DID - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 20:34

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 20:34
"1972, 1983. Pretty much irrelevant in 2009 with the new technology and the way most people are moving on with SAR technology. "

- why does EVERY 406 beacon sold in 2009 still have a 121.5 transmitter ??? Because pilots eyesight still hasn't improved since 1972 - search aircraft will still home in on the 121.5 beacon because it's continuous, unlike the pulsed high-power 406 beacon. Pilots still can't see through vegetation, 121.5 receivers can.

As I said before, if all lost parties carried a 121.5 beacon as a minimum, the local search phase would last minutes, not days.

No-one is arguing that 121.5 is anywhere near as good as 406, but 121.5 is heaps better than no radio beacon.
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Follow Up By: howie - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 23:53

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 23:53
"why does EVERY 406 beacon sold in 2009 still have a 121.5 transmitter ??? Because pilots eyesight still hasn't improved since 1972 - search aircraft will still home in on the 121.5 beacon because it's continuous, unlike the pulsed high-power 406 beacon. Pilots still can't see through vegetation, 121.5 receivers can. "


yes, you are correct but......
the 406 signal is the ONLY signal that will be processed by the satellite system now.
the 121.5 signal will only used for a secondary search once the 406 position has been calculated. nothing to do with pilots eyesight.

as for hook island, was she a professional or part-time jumper waver?
i will take you for a fly and organise someone to wave at us, see how long it takes you to spot it.

however, you are more than welcome to depend on your 121.5 beacon, its your life.
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Follow Up By: Rossc0 - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 00:20

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 00:20
"I'm not disrespecting you Mike, but I speak from almost 30 years as a pilot. What are your credentials?"

Don't know about Mike but mine are 32 years as an atc and 22 years as a pilot.

And like Mike I've been involved in ground search and rescue but also aerial searches using the exact paragraphs from ERSA and had not done any SAR training. Subsequetly I did do SAR training for beacon homing but it did not highlight anything new from the ERSA infomation.

In all that time I've never had a request by a pilot to participate in a search or assist in locating a beacon rejected. Mind you it's about ten years since I last asked someone.

But this is getting totally away from the point.

121.5 is still the VHF distress frequency. Yes it is no longer monitored by the satellites but there are still people who will listen to it. I do.

This is the point we are making don't make blanket statements that it's no longer monitored at all.

As to relying on a 121.5 beacon for SAR then you've got rocks in your head if you do. I have my old MT310 but I also have a brand new (well six months old) MT400. We keep both in the survival box along with the satphone, hand held VHF (on 121.5), hand held gps and all the other bits and pieces.

I will not rely on the 121.5 but if the battery is flat in the 406 then I'll use the 121.5 but then I've also got the satphone.

Cheers
Ross
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Follow Up By: Rossc0 - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 00:23

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 00:23
"The limit of our responsibility when responding to a beacon is to "call it in". That's it. "

And that's the point I've been making. You must call it in if you hear it.

Cheers
Ross
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Follow Up By: Member - Mike DID - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 07:26

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 07:26
"as for hook island, was she a professional or part-time jumper waver? "

- if you're not going to take my first-hand statements from lost parties seriously, then I won't waste any more of my time reading your posts.
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Follow Up By: aroundwego - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 10:07

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 10:07
I think there is a little bit of "cross wires" here, and I do not want to discount any one else's experiences.

I agree if you have nothing else a 121.5 may help, particularly if its an ALERTED search, ie someone is already looking for you because they know you are missing or someone in an aircraft was monitoring 121.5 and reported it.

All I have ever really just wanted to add to the discussion was that the old beacons (as a tool for a UNALERTED detection) are no longer part of the Cospas-Sarsat system and there is no system or requirements in place that have a SAR responsibility to "listen out" for you.

As I said I don't want to discount other peoples experiences, or even argue that an old beacon may be absolutely useless in all circumstances. But I would just hate somebody to read this thread and think it was okay to buy an old one and expect that there is still a dedicated system in place to assist them.

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Reply By: howie - Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 18:40

Friday, Feb 13, 2009 at 18:40
see, the old epirbs are 'totally reliable'
AnswerID: 348910

Follow Up By: Axel [ the real one ] - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 10:08

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 10:08
Yep ,the old 121.5s EPIRBS totally reliable , ,,, Sept 1983 ,the day after Australia won the Americas cup , brand new epirb [6weeks old] correctly mounted in the cockpit of the 55ft ketch rigged "SeaDevil" , Yacht departs from mooring at Bundaberg for Gladstone ,,,, never seen or heard from again ,,
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