Avionics Report

November 2008 Issue

406 ELT Update: More Choices, But...Wait

The market is still in its wake-up phase, even though the 121.5 MHz unplug date is four months away. We think buyers should wait for more competition before buying.

With the feds set to pull the plug on the monitoring of 121.5/243.0 MHz ELTs in just four months (by February 2009), the market for 406 MHz technology is still in the wake-up phase. Several readers have contacted us for advice on buying, so here’s a brief update. Right up front, we’ll say don’t get in a hurry to buy. Model selections are still limited and prices are high. Perhaps an inexpensive personal locator beacon is the best-value fill-in option for a year or so. We covered 406 MHz units in the July 2007 issue of Aviation Consumer and since then, the market has advanced. To review, 406 units are smart ELTs that transmit digitally encoded aircraft tailnumber, pilot information and beacon serial number and some have the ability to transmit the last recorded GPS-derived position data. These beacons are the way to go; the question is when. Historically, there have only been a few key players in the light aircraft ELT world, but we’re surprised that more manufacturers haven’t jumped at the chance to capitalize on the 406 frenzy. Artex was first on the block with an affordable (if you can call a $1000 ELT affordable) 406 MHz system through the entry-level ME406 and it remains a popular seller.

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