Avionics News December 2013 - 21

If an aircraft crash
triggers a 121.5 MHz
beacon but there is no
one to hear it, does it
make a sound?

A

s another year nears its close, pilots often look to upgrade
their aircraft during the slower-flying months of winter. So it
seems a good time to consider the potential impact of many
pilots' decision to ignore an important technological advancement in
emergency gear - via a familiar old question: "If a tree falls in the
forest and no one's there to hear it, does it make a sound?"
The answer recognizes that the tree fall does generate the atmospheric vibrations of sound, yet still answers "no" from the perspective on what constitutes
"reality."
Because there is no reality independent of observation, according to a philosophy, the tree fall makes no
sound. If there is such a reality as the felled tree, the observer cannot know of it, for then it has been observed
- and only then real.
This question is analogous to a similar one raised
during a recent hangar-flying discussion about continuing to use 121.5 megahertz emergency locator
transmitters to satisfy the Federal Aviation Regulations requirement for a functional ELT in most aircraft.
A rephrased version of the tree-in-the-forest question goes like this: "If an aircraft crash triggers a
121.5 MHz beacon but there is no one to hear it, does
it make a sound?"
The 121.5 MHz ELT-equipped aircraft is aviation's
"tree" that, when felled, lacks a full-time global listener since the International Cospas-Sarsat authorities
shut down satellite monitoring nearly five years ago.
Given the already legendary shortcomings of the
121.5 MHz beacon's range and accuracy, chances rank

high that nobody will hear the 121.5 beacon, save by
coincidence, accident or search - a search started after
the loss of precious hours until the aircraft's past-due
status triggers a search by authorities and the Civil Air
Patrol. In other words, lacking a little blind luck, the
121.5 MHz beacon may never be heard.
Pilots and aircraft owners in the U.S. enjoy other
options for signaling their emergency situation, complete with global satellite monitoring. One viable and
intriguing approach advocates using a passive, independent beacon-with a subscription-service option
like SPOT or Spidertracks. These devices signal when
and where they are on a user-set frequency, which depends on the subscription level purchased; if the beacon signals it's no longer moving, an alert goes out to
the user's personally selected list of contacts that can
include authorities, business associates, and friends
and family. Depending on the service level, initiation
of a search may require action on the part of someone
on the contact list.
There are, of course, personal locator beacons
that use the internationally more-powerful 406 MHz
Continued on following page
avionics news

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december

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Avionics News December 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Avionics News December 2013

Point of Communication
AEA Now
The View From Washington
International News and Regulatory Updates
Beltway Briefing
Want to be Found ... and Legal?
Member Profile
Trig Avionics Ltd.
Avionics News Through the Years
EEDirect
A Conversation With...
Member Profile
Avotek Publishes New AET Study Guide
Civil UAV's
Business Basics
AEA Newsmakers at NBAA Convention
What's New
Marketplace Classifieds
Avionics News December 2013 - Intro
Avionics News December 2013 - Cover1
Avionics News December 2013 - Cover2
Avionics News December 2013 - 1
Avionics News December 2013 - 2
Avionics News December 2013 - 3
Avionics News December 2013 - Point of Communication
Avionics News December 2013 - 5
Avionics News December 2013 - AEA Now
Avionics News December 2013 - 7
Avionics News December 2013 - 8
Avionics News December 2013 - 9
Avionics News December 2013 - 10
Avionics News December 2013 - 11
Avionics News December 2013 - 12
Avionics News December 2013 - 13
Avionics News December 2013 - The View From Washington
Avionics News December 2013 - 15
Avionics News December 2013 - International News and Regulatory Updates
Avionics News December 2013 - 17
Avionics News December 2013 - 18
Avionics News December 2013 - Beltway Briefing
Avionics News December 2013 - Want to be Found ... and Legal?
Avionics News December 2013 - 21
Avionics News December 2013 - 22
Avionics News December 2013 - 23
Avionics News December 2013 - Member Profile
Avionics News December 2013 - 25
Avionics News December 2013 - 26
Avionics News December 2013 - 27
Avionics News December 2013 - Trig Avionics Ltd.
Avionics News December 2013 - 29
Avionics News December 2013 - 30
Avionics News December 2013 - 31
Avionics News December 2013 - 32
Avionics News December 2013 - 33
Avionics News December 2013 - Avionics News Through the Years
Avionics News December 2013 - 35
Avionics News December 2013 - EEDirect
Avionics News December 2013 - 37
Avionics News December 2013 - 38
Avionics News December 2013 - 39
Avionics News December 2013 - A Conversation With...
Avionics News December 2013 - 41
Avionics News December 2013 - Member Profile
Avionics News December 2013 - 43
Avionics News December 2013 - 44
Avionics News December 2013 - 45
Avionics News December 2013 - Avotek Publishes New AET Study Guide
Avionics News December 2013 - 47
Avionics News December 2013 - 48
Avionics News December 2013 - 49
Avionics News December 2013 - Civil UAV's
Avionics News December 2013 - 51
Avionics News December 2013 - 52
Avionics News December 2013 - 53
Avionics News December 2013 - Business Basics
Avionics News December 2013 - 55
Avionics News December 2013 - 56
Avionics News December 2013 - 57
Avionics News December 2013 - AEA Newsmakers at NBAA Convention
Avionics News December 2013 - 59
Avionics News December 2013 - 60
Avionics News December 2013 - 61
Avionics News December 2013 - 62
Avionics News December 2013 - 63
Avionics News December 2013 - 64
Avionics News December 2013 - 65
Avionics News December 2013 - What's New
Avionics News December 2013 - 67
Avionics News December 2013 - 68
Avionics News December 2013 - 69
Avionics News December 2013 - Marketplace Classifieds
Avionics News December 2013 - 71
Avionics News December 2013 - 72
Avionics News December 2013 - 73
Avionics News December 2013 - 74
Avionics News December 2013 - Cover3
Avionics News December 2013 - Cover4
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