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Old 18-11-2012, 15:35   #1
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Using a PLB for Other Purposes

I have an ACR marine PLB with GPS. I do a fair amount backcountry skiing during the winter and was wondering if I could use the PLB jut as I would while cruising. Could they be used on land the same way and as efficient as in water or should I get a spot device? Thanks!
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Old 18-11-2012, 16:18   #2
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Re: Using a PLB for other purposes

Yes they can be used on land. The guy that chopped his own arm off in MOAB is now a spokesperson for ACR
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Old 18-11-2012, 16:19   #3
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Originally Posted by xymotic
Yes they can be used on land. The guy that chopped his own arm off in MOAB is now a spokesperson for ACR
Great, thanks!
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Old 23-11-2012, 20:22   #4
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Re: Using a PLB for Other Purposes

Actually most PLB's are designed for non marine use because many don't float. Only EPIRBs are specifically designed to float upright so they can transmit a signal while floating. The internal parts are similar, so the satellites are happy with a PLB or an EPIRB. Hopefully you have a PLB with the gps feature. It will get rescue personnel to you much quicker if they have a gps position to go to rather than trying to DF on the weak 121.5 signal in the woods. Not many land rescue personnel have the ability to DF on the strong 406 transmission yet.
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Old 23-11-2012, 22:17   #5
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Re: Using a PLB for Other Purposes

I found RustyNail's response fascinating, so did some reading, and found some interesting information on just how unlikely things are without a 406 MHz DF capable SAR effort.

This is from the USCG account of the F/V Extractor, with a non-GPS 406 MHz EPIRB:

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On 12 Jun 05, 10 separate aircraft, 18 sorties, 19 search areas, and 13,118 sq. miles were expended to locate the 34’ P/C Extractor 26 miles off the coast of Florida. After thousands of miles of cumulative search effort, CG 1504 launched from Elizabeth City, NC (with a DF-430-F prototype on board) en-route to the assigned datum. While still 90 NM from scene, at 17,000 feet, the DF-430-F locked onto a 406 MHz ELT signal. The C-130H Hercules crew flew directly to the new electronic intercept solution and located two hypothermic survivors clinging to the bottom of an overturned craft, thus ending a 20 + hour search. An HH-65 was vectored to the position and hoisted the two survivors to safety. These two survivors had been holding onto the bottom of the boat for over 24 hours.
What I find fascinating about this is that even though the boat had an EPIRB that was activated, since it did not have a GPS the CG still had to search, covered 13,000 square miles, and still didn't find the vessel. Only after an aircraft equipped with a prototype 406 Mhz DF set was dispatched was the vessel found. This case was used to bolster the argument for installation of 406 MHz DF equipment throughout the CG fleet.

And this from a DF search for a vessel with a GPS enabled EPIRB:

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As we got closer, it was apparent that the DF was pointing a few miles away from the GPS coordinates passed by the Sector...probably due to normal drift - wind/current. We went strait to the where DF needle was pointing us.
So, the GPS position gets stale quickly (CG stats say about 30% of GPS EPIRBs successfully report a position).
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Old 24-11-2012, 07:14   #6
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Re: Using a PLB for Other Purposes

Dsanduril, I am glad you dug into the DF subject. I have been working on this project for years, and there are a lot of opinions out there that need to be squelched. Hopefully soon PLBs and EPIRBs will only be sold with the gps feature. They all work well, but saving minutes can be the difference between life and misery when you need help. The new 406 MHz DF capability in aircraft direction finders is beyond belief but not making a lot of news. Newer 406 beacons with gps are much better, and I wouldn't agree anymore with the "stale" quote. The newer models are quick to get the gps position and very accurate if the antenna has a clear view of the satellites.
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Old 24-11-2012, 07:30   #7
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Re: Using a PLB for Other Purposes

I believe this is their main use.

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