Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) Performance in Canada from 2003 to 2008 – Statistics and Human Factors Issues


  1. Keillor, J.
  2. Newbold, G.
  3. Rebane, A.
  4. Roberts, S.
  5. Armstrong, J.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Toronto, Toronto ONT (CAN);National Search and Rescue, Ottawa Ont (CAN);CAE Professional Services, Ottawa (ON)
Emergency Location Transmitters (ELTs) help Search and Rescue authorities locate aircraft in distress. ELTs are designed to activate automatically under the force of an impact like a crash, or can be manually activated by the operator. ELTs operate on two primary frequencies for satellite alerting: 406 MHz digital emergency beacons and 121.5/243 MHz analog emergency beacons. As of February 1st 2009, 121.5/243.0 MHz analog emergency beacons no longer alert Search and Rescue authorities and only signals from 406 MHz emergency beacons are processed. This study, performed for the National Search and Rescue Secretariat, examined successful activation ELT rates and human factors issues by analysing actual aircraft incidents that occurred in Canadian territory between the years 2003 and 2007. The success rate – the percentage of ELTs that survived a real aircraft incident and notified SAR authorities – was 74% (64% of the cases analysed were activated automatically). This is an improvement on past success rates. It was the intent of this study to compare success rates and human factors issues occurring with 121.5/243 MHz ELTs and 406 MHz ELTs. However, the incident data did not include any incidents involving 406 MHz ELTs. The study also examined false alarm rates and human factors issues for 121.5/243 MHz and 406 MHz ELTs for false alarms that occurred between 2006 and 2008. The false alarm rates were determined to be high, around 90% for ELTs operating on either frequency. Rec

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emergency locator transmitter, search and rescue
Report Number
DRDC-TORONTO-TR-2009-101 — Technical Report
Date of publication
01 Sep 2009
Number of Pages
Electronic Document(PDF)

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