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Old 22-06-2008, 07:42   #1
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121.5 EPIRB activation after Feb 1, 2009?

Does anyone know (or can speculate) what response (if any) can be expected from local rescue authority if an 121.5 /243 MHz EPIRB (non 406) is activated after Feb 1, 2009.

OK we know that the transmission will not be received by the COSPAS SARSAT system but potentially the 121.5 MHz transmission may still be received by anyone monitoring that frequency. Would such transmissions still constitute a distress signal and warrant a response from a RCC?
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Old 22-06-2008, 08:02   #2
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NONE. Well maybe a fine.

Cospas-Sarsat, the international organization responsible for detecting and locating beacon signals, announced they would cease satellite processing of the 121.5/243 MHz beacon signals after the 2009 deadline.

According to the USCG, beginning January 1, 2007, both 121.5 and 243 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) are prohibited from use in both commercial and recreational watercraft.
The January 1, 2007, date to stop using 121.5 MHz EPIRBs is in preparation for February 1, 2009, when satellite processing of distress signals from all 121.5/243 MHz beacons will terminate. Following this termination date, only the 406 MHz beacons will be detected by the International Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System which provides distress alert and location data for search and rescue operations around the world.

Goto: Boaters Must NOT Operate 121.5/243 MHz EPIRBs
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Old 22-06-2008, 08:21   #3
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I think there would be a changeover period, even unadvertised. But he without a 406 better get one to be on the safe side
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Old 22-06-2008, 08:32   #4
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Interestingly 121.5 / 243 MOB devices can still be activated.

Anyone know the difference in the transmitted signal between a 121.5 EPRIB and the 121.5 MOB device (perhaps the modulation?).

As far as I can tell from the radio communications act (in Oz), 121.5 Mhz still remains a legitmate distress frequency.
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Old 22-06-2008, 08:38   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
I think there would be a changeover period, even unadvertised. But he without a 406 better get one to be on the safe side
Mark, I am pretty sure (but hey, it's only an internet opinion) that the satellite processing WILL be turned off exactly at midnight GMT , January 31, 2009.

I agree that the only beacon to have is a 406 but I am interested in knowing what is the official position on a 121.5 transmission (that is unaccompanied by a 406 transmission) especially as all 406 beacons do (and will continue to) transmit on 121.5 anyway.
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Old 22-06-2008, 09:45   #6
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I am interested in knowing what is the official position on a 121.5 transmission (that is unaccompanied by a 406 transmission) especially as all 406 beacons do (and will continue to) transmit on 121.5 anyway.
I thought that was a homing beacon for when the resuce boat/plane gets close, but I don't really know so I didn't comment when you asked in the earlier post - Can I say that usually me not knowing doesnt usually stop me posting

The other (important) bit I have always wondered about is: Do we buy a cheap RDF to pick up the 121.5 transmition for our MOB EPIRB's? Otherwise they are useless as tits on a bull if a crew goes over with one of those pinned to them.
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Old 22-06-2008, 09:50   #7
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It's my impression that the 406 alerts the system. If you are not using a GPS equipped EPIRB, the 121.5 signal gives the rescue people a signal to home in on once they get close.


We still have a small 121 on board in our dink.


Also, it IS legal, in an emergency, to transmit on ANY AND ALL frequencies.


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Old 22-06-2008, 11:39   #8
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Gee, and I thought the U.S. Coast Guard was clear on this issue.
The headline of the USCG News, for December 8, 2006, reads:
Boaters Must NOT Operate 121.5/243 MHz EPIRBs

Goto: Boaters Must NOT Operate 121.5/243 MHz EPIRBs
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Old 22-06-2008, 12:15   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
I thought that was a homing beacon for when the resuce boat/plane gets close, but I don't really know so I didn't comment when you asked in the earlier post - Can I say that usually me not knowing doesnt usually stop me posting

The other (important) bit I have always wondered about is: Do we buy a cheap RDF to pick up the 121.5 transmition for our MOB EPIRB's? Otherwise they are useless as tits on a bull if a crew goes over with one of those pinned to them.
There are at least 2 levels as to how these are marketed.

You have a receiver that alerts you that someone is overboard.

You have a receiver that alerts you that someone is overboard and hits the mob button on your gps. (most have this capability now?)

You have a directional receiver (rdf as you suggested) to lead you back to the transmitter.

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Old 22-06-2008, 15:48   #10
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Radio Direction Finding on a 121.5 signal is a bear. It took a trained adult crew from the civil airpatrol two and a half hours to locate a tripped elt on a boat at Herrington Harbour North Marina last summer. Thats after an air search narrowed down to an area of several square miles. A civil aircraft radio will pick up the signal if within about 20 miles of a transmitter WITH A FRESH BATTERY, but it will not be able to tell Center any more than "Hey, I hear One." It would have no VHF direction finding equipment An airliner over the ocean would have to fly almost directly overhead to hear you, would not be able to see you unless you could actually hit the cockpit with sunlight reflected from a mirror (as in daytime, clear skies,) and certainly could not loiter while help came. So.....

Don't count on an old 121.5 epirb to be anything more than false hope and bad trouble.

I flew Search and Rescue in the Navy in the early 70's and several times we were still searching when an ELT battery died. Heart-breaker.
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Old 22-06-2008, 17:02   #11
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Interestingly 121.5 / 243 MOB devices can still be activated.

Anyone know the difference in the transmitted signal between a 121.5 EPRIB and the 121.5 MOB device (perhaps the modulation?).

As far as I can tell from the radio communications act (in Oz), 121.5 Mhz still remains a legitmate distress frequency.
I think the confusion lies in that 121.5 Mhz remains as it has been the International Air Distress telephony frequency for civilian aircraft and 243 that for military aircraft. It will no longer have any relevance to maritime services except for direction finding on 406 EPIRB's (and the same for aircraft ELT's) - taking Sandy's comments/warning on the value of this to heart.

With respect to whether a 121.5 beacon alert will be responded to, as I understand it the satellite transponders are killed as from February 2009 so no hope there. It is possible that an aircraft or ATCC monitoring 121.5 might pick up the tone if close enough but I doubt if much would happen - after all, most countries do not initiate search and rescue now on the basis of 121.5 alerts, unless there is some other corroborating evidence of distress or likelihood of distress, due to the very high incidence of false alerts and inability of checking the veracity of the alert.
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Old 22-06-2008, 17:24   #12
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If somebody is going to cross big oceans without the latest 406/GPS gear, then a cheap 121.5 VHF hand-held comm from e-bay and several sets of batteries may be the ticket:
Pilots crossing oceans usually monitor 121.5 and anybody attempting contact should get an immediate response. High flying aircraft can usually pick up ground stations within a 200 NM range, but perhaps less from a hand-held. Cheap insurance anyway.

A few years ago I took a job outfitting a 44' Harding ketch for an Atlantic crossing. The owner asked me to walk the 121.5 beacon to the overhaul shop and have it "re-certified". The shop manager said they quit servicing those beacons 10 years ago.
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Old 22-06-2008, 17:52   #13
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EPIRPS

The regulations for any needed EPIRP is 406 for all services. However this type of equipment also transmits on the existing 121.5 / 243.0 as well. The real reason for the new equipment is to remove the expence of false alarms & the resulting cost of unnecssary SAR. The difference is being able to ID the 406 MHZ signal to the owner & in some cases the GPS pos & nature of the emerg. I suspect there will still be false activations but there will be that delay while somebody will made up their minds if a SAR will commence. All aircraft with a second VHF radio will still hear the 121.5 component as that is the frequency selected when not needed & will still be the first alert in many cases but the SAR action will likely not have the same "trigger" if the tone burst of the ID component is not present. i.e. a search may be conducted as it is not a complient format. The search will still be done with the same directional finding equipment with the same result as now!! You cannot get by without replacing the old 121.5 any more than having an out of date battery in an EPIRP which makes it an unservicable item & hence not legal. Some states in Australia are bringing the change over date forward.

Enjoy choosing your new EPIRP!!

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Old 22-06-2008, 17:58   #14
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Differences

I believe that the main difference is that the 121.5 / 243 MHZ units are analog transmitters and the 403 is digital.

There is a mandate that requires all government services (fire, police, and emergence services) to go to all digital radios by Feb 2009. Same thing with television.
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Old 22-06-2008, 18:31   #15
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However this type of equipment also transmits on the existing 121.5 / 243.0 as well.
406 EPIRB's typically (I say "typically" only because there may be a few exceptions) do not transmit on 243 MHz, only on 121.5

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All aircraft with a second VHF radio will still hear the 121.5 component.
This has been suggested a couple of times now and is in my mind a dangerous assumption.

I would not bank on it, 121.5 will be telephony only as far as aviation is concerned as their ELT's are 406 now too (and for direction finding on ELT's) so no one is going to be flying planes taking much notice of some "strange" tone/tones received on 121.5. That is if they are even monitoring 121.5 - aircraft telephony distress alerts are normally made on the working frequency for the particular route/sector or that allocated at the time as the aircraft's working frequency by ATC if operating HF.

As I said most countries do not respond to ANY 121.5 beacon alerts now, no matter how received, unless there is other evidence of distress - it is a real stretch of the imagination that ANY will respond after the system is fully decommisioned in 2009. NZ is one of only 2 countries that I know of that responds to 121.5 alerts without other evidence of distress - my understanding is that no 121.5 alerts will be responded to from Feb 2009 by them no matter how received, the system will be totally defunct - defunct like dead and gone (all commercial vessels and all aircraft are already on 406 EPIRB's/ELT's here now).
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