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Thread: THE 406 ELT thread

  1. #1
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    Default THE 406 ELT thread

    I do not know jack about which 406 ELT or even which vest pocket EPIRB is the best way to go...

    So can some of the experts jump in and share their knowlege???


    Which cost less, which have a better GPS link....??? that sort of info....
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    My employer put 406s in all their A/C. 121.5 is not monitored anymore, apparently. There are 3 or so different levels of 406 you can get. Cheaper ones are just an ELT with nothing extra. More expensive have GPS data transmitted with signal. Kinda depends on how much you want/need to spend. I believe the 406 signal is supposed to be more accurate than the old 121.5. As satellites receive the signal, they are supposed to triangulate your position.
    Don't know anything about epirbs.
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    Had a Kannad Compact installed a couple years ago. At the time it (they) did not have a option for GPS to be wired in so its only a 406 and 121.5.
    Just looked a few days ago and Kannad now offers the same compact with a built in gps so your first data burst should have your coordinates in it.
    If I was in the market for a 406 elt or epirb I would not get anything that did not have a built in gps. Just seems like the best deal so RCC know right were you are when it is activated and could really save some time by being able to see if the coordinates are in the hills someplace or at your tie down.
    Seems like there are 2 or 3 other company's that have the built in gps now too.

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    121.5 hasn't been monitored by satellites for years now. We had what, a 10 year warning? Maybe it was 12 years. 406 is a digital signal that includes a specific data code that identifies the aircraft, owner, and links it to other pertinent information we're required to provide to NOAA on a biannual basis. We used to get a little registration sticker that had to be affixed in the airplane. The sticker is no longer required. NOAA emails you with a notice to re-register/refresh the ELT contact info. In a matter of a minute or so after beacon activation Cospas Sarsat will receive an ELT's signal and they'll know who's ELT is pinging. At that point they dispatch the alert to your local authority. In Alaska an aircraft ELT is the responsibility of the Air Guard. They'll pull up your registration info and will try to validate the authenticity of an aircraft emergency as opposed to a false alarm. If they find evidence that you were out flying and believe the signal is authentic they'll mobilize a rescue. By that time, assuming your ELT remained active, they'll know where you are with amazing accuracy. That takes about a half hour to an hour. A few years after 406s were on the market somebody had the idea to use "long" code and include GPS location info in the data burst from the ELT. A nice feature if the airplane burns or sinks and the signal duration is short. One manufacturer in particular chose to incorporate a GPS into each ELT. Others decided to add input capacity that would use an external GPS. Kannad's internal GPS really never caught on and the ACK version took off like a rocket. These days many of the lesser expensive, GA targeted models use the industry typical NMEA 183 data to encode an ELT burst. Some models come with the inputs, some need add-on modules to do it. The ACK 406 is the least expensive 406 ELT on the market and it has the external GPS inputs as standard equipment. I believe AmeriKing's version does as well. Artex's ME-406 had the market to itself for several years. It's more expensive and requires a $225 add-on GPS input module. All will work with your average Garmin handheld GPS. Very cool stuff. All the popular ELT models comply with the FAA TSO for output power, functions, battery duration, etc. I don't know that there's any advantage for one over another. All are better than any 121.5 beacon out there. There's somebody listening, they can identify the who and where very quickly, and the output power and endurance are improved. A friend in the RCC business describes it like this. If a 121.5 beacon goes off and you're lucky enough that somebody hears it? RCC might go look for you. If a 406 goes off, they're coming to pick you up. How cool is that? In Alaska we have incredible S&R resources and in concert with the new 406 beacons they have the capability to find us and help us like never before. We're in a great place.

    EPIRBS and PLBs are not the responsibility of the Air Guard. I know the beacon technology is the same but I don't know that the battery endurance, self test, or impact durability standards are anything like aircraft ELTs.

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    a couple points without getting to in depth and its off the cuff so take it for what its worth.

    If a 406 elt is gps coupled via RS-232 feed or has an embedded gps, your coordinates will be transmitted with the initial alert. (That really comes into play if the unit burns quickly or sinks or any other reason it can't transmit for a few minutes IMO) The initial alert triggers download of all your contact info and stuff you typed in when you REGISTERED the unit. You DID register it right? This brings up a good point: Re-register the elt when you purchase an airplane with a 406 already installed. Get YOUR contact info in the system to ensure no delay in YOUR recovery.

    So if gps aided/coupled coords are transmitted with initial transmission. (The coords typically your gps sent to the let within one second ago!)

    If not coupled, the triangulation is much quicker/precise than old radio signals so solution is still normally WAY quicker and WAY more precise. Depends on satellite positions etc. Understand there is no comparison to any elt on the market 5 years ago. The WORST available option today is FAR superior to any non 406. Think spotlight vs. floodlight for the signal. If you want to argue this FACT, use another thread. I'm over it. I don't get paid anything to save you from yourself.

    Tried to keep this generic. To really get into it, one needs to know the architecture of the satellite arrangements etc and a forum is not the best place. If you want to get educated and understand the subject these are a couple places to start: http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/406vs121.pdf http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/Phaseout_Brochure.pdf
    (these pdf's basically say everything I just did and alot more)

    FWIW I have ACK's in both of my planes. Mostly because they are the cheapest and I can't figure out a downfall compared with the others. There probably is. It IS a pain in the ***** to make the little tester to verify the RS-232 signal for the ACK but that's your mechanics problem. That is only if you gps couple though. I made one and its on full time "borrowed" status. I suppose I'll make a couple more.

    Everything above is worth what you paid for it. Please use official sources to make your decision. Hopefully this will get a couple guys thinking that direction though. You really do owe it to your family and friends.


    Looks like PID and I posted the same time. He is as educated on these as anyone so listen up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by roamak View Post
    Just looked a few days ago and Kannad now offers the same compact with a built in gps so your first data burst should have your coordinates in it.
    I know for a fact, from experience, that at least with some units, your GPS coords are NOT encoded in the first data burst. First data includes unit ident and registration info. GPS info is not transmitted immediately... I would suspect this holds true for all, as one would assume the data transmission sequence is standardized, but perhaps not.
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    Quote Originally Posted by roamak View Post
    Had a Kannad Compact installed a couple years ago. At the time it (they) did not have a option for GPS to be wired in so its only a 406 and 121.5.
    Just looked a few days ago and Kannad now offers the same compact with a built in gps so your first data burst should have your coordinates in it.
    If I was in the market for a 406 elt or epirb I would not get anything that did not have a built in gps. Just seems like the best deal so RCC know right were you are when it is activated and could really save some time by being able to see if the coordinates are in the hills someplace or at your tie down.
    Seems like there are 2 or 3 other company's that have the built in gps now too.
    Correct me if I'm wrong but the Kannad units with internal GPS require dedicated external GPS antennae and GPS power. That negates any convenience the internal GPS might have offered. The ACK uses a couple of 22ga wires from the GPS harness of the Garmins we already have. Heck, the new AERA units are so good they don't even need an external antenna. Pulling two wires from my Garmin is easier than paying for a redundant GPS that requires the addition of an external antenna and a power source. If I was buying a new ELT today it would be an ACK. I haven't looked at Kannad for a couple of years so things may have changed.

    I may add the Artex module to my ELT and hook the AERA up to it. I use a Spider but the GPS and ELT are right there so I may as well get them talking. It's just a matter of pulling wires.

    One feature of the new TSO and the new 406 boxes that I forgot to mention is that they all self test from the panel switch. My ELT not only works better but in a couple of seconds I can force it to test reserve battery power, output circuit integrity, and even antenna transmit integrity. It verifies to me that it's in working order. It'll tell me when the battery needs replacing, too. From the panel. All with a flashing LED. I like it.

    AK-Hunt, thanks for the compliment. I like this topic. The technology is here. I wish all pilots would pony up and employ 406s. Now that the ACK is approved and available the price should lower the resistance.

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    Mine is an Artex ME406. The manual says it transmits every 50 seconds, But it does not say anything about when the first info burst goes out... At the time it seemed like a good deal because the mounting bracket was the same as my old ELT. I need to get a unit one of these days with a built in GPS.
    I was hoping we would have some IAs and other folks with apples to apples comparisons.

    Sierra Hotel came up with this in another posting:::
    F
    P - I found this comparison. Not too in-depth, but it does give some insight. Here's a summary page with some good intel also
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    If you have an ME-406 and want to add GPS this is what you need in order to make you handheld Garmin or equivalent GPS talk to your ELT. $225 at Aircraft Spruce and other supply sources.
    http://www.aircraftspruce.com/catalo...-0001rev-1.pdf

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    The ack receives updates from gps every second. This processed data is verified every annual (or sooner if u want) with aforementioned tester. What's the advantage of built in gps? As PID said aera's require no antennae. What's the gain? Never got that. It's actually more antennas. I know if my gps is on I'm updating too.

    Differences: As far as I know they are all built to same TSO so functionally must be same minimum performance. Battery styles, aesthetics, mounts, installation ease, gps couple enabled or not. Bet they are within couple hundred of each other in few years.

    Have a good evening.

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    I think Mr Pid is right as far as the Kannad having two separate antennae. I did not read through the flyer as I was just browsing. I have not looked into any of the other new 406 elts since I had mine installed but it looks like there are some really good options now compared to a few years ago. Now I will have to find out do the built in gps require external power? If one was to have a electrical fire in the dash and had to shut down all power but was forced to land in the trees,(worst case scenario) would your built in gps provide coordinates? That may be another knock on the built in gps compared to being coupled to a garmin in the dash that still can function off its own battery power....granted obviously the 406 would still work but what about the gps portion of the unit.
    Thank you Mr Pid, AK Hunt, and FP for your knowledge you guys provide on subjects like this.

  12. #12
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    ACK
    E-04
    Emerging Lifesaving Technologies
    ELT406GPS
    Ameri-King
    AK-451-2
    Ameri-King
    AK-451-6
    Artex
    ME-406
    (w/ 110-773
    Whip antenna)
    Artex
    ME-406 ACE
    ACR
    G406-4
    (W/GPS Interface) (w/ whip antennas)
    EBC 406AF
    Kannad
    Integra
    406AF
    GPS Capable Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes No Yes
    Antenna Included Yes
    (single cable whip)
    Yes
    (double cable blade)
    Yes
    (single cable whip)
    Yes
    (single cable whip)
    Yes
    (single cable whip)
    Yes
    (single cable whip)
    (requires 2 whip antennas) Yes
    (single cable whip)
    Yes
    (whip)
    Battery Life 5 Years 5 Years 5 Years 5 Years 6 Years 6 Years 5 Years 5 Years 6 Years
    *Replacement Battery Cost
    $102.99
    $212.50
    $144.95
    $144.95
    $147.95
    $147.95
    $398.00
    $159.95
    $167.95
    Total Weight
    w/battery
    1.6 Lbs. 2.5 Lbs. 2 Lbs. 10 oz. 2 Lbs 10 oz. 2.05 Lbs. 2.05 Lbs. 3 Lbs. 5.8 Oz. 2.5 Lbs. 1.873 Lbs.
    Retention System Dual stainless steel straps Single cloth strap w/ Velcro. Single metallic strap Single metallic strap Single cloth strap w/ Velcro. Single cloth strap w/ Velcro. Locking Cap Single stainless steel strap Single cloth strap w/ Velcro.
    121.5
    MHz
    Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
    Installation Notes Full Plug & Play Install Kit User fabricated cabling Full Plug & Play Install Kit Full Plug & Play Install Kit User fabricated cabling User fabricated cabling User fabricated cabling User fabricated cabling User fabricated cabling
    Warranty Terms 2 Years 3 Years 2 Years 2 Years 2 Years 2 Years 2 Years 2 Years 2 Years
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    Pretty good write up PID.

    I had the ACK Installed 11/11.

    Got in the plane to check improvements and pushed the test/reset button. It blinked and then few secs later beeped. I thght i better turn it off and hit reset. Got out and drove back to ANC.

    As I got to about Dowling Rd., headed south on New Seward, I turned on the cell and there was a message. Got home and called the number and low and behold it was S&R.

    Yep,...they had all my info and knew I was guilty and where they could send the storm troopers Ha! Just kidding...

    Luckily,....since the signal wasn't continuous for a time, S&R fig it was a false signal and called to verify that. Thank goodness huh?

    They were happy I called them. I first talked to a gal there and then to a guy and there was another one in the background. I must have been on a speaker phone as we all talked and had few good laughs. Nice folk.

    They urged me to tell every pilot I know to get a 406 ELT.

    I told them I ran the wire to hook it up to the GPS but had not connected it yet. I then asked the diff with and without the GPS hookup. They explained it this way;

    Without the GPS hookup, they can locate ya in an area approximately the size of Mulcahy Stadium.

    With the GPS hookup, they can locate ya approximately where you are parked. IOW the a parking stall.

    Pretty amazing.!

    As an aside, I emailed ACK this week about taking the ELT out to preserve the battery over the winter. The response was:

    << No the low temperatures will not hurt to the battery life minimum storage temperature is -55C (-67F).

    Mike Akatiff >>

    So...Please get and install a 406 ELT ASAP. Might want to check with DW & see if your life insurance policy is current. She may oppose it Ha!

    RR

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    Having spent most of my military career in the search and rescue business (quite a few years ago) both as an operator and also senior watch officer in a JRCC, Joint Rescue Coordination Center, i cannot tell you how much quicker we responded to a 406 beacon vs. sarsat hit or 121.5 report...The first hit always got an immediate response and a phone call to the owner...followed with " SAR alarm and put the ready helo on line"

    I am not an electrical engineer, nor can I explain the physics associated with signal propagation, but I can tell you many stories of wild goose chases as the 121.5 signal bounced off local terrain...But we still went when the source was not immediately known..

    I had one installed on my plane last year with the remote button and GPS interface...It gives me a "warm and fuzzy" in some of the desolate areas we fly in...I think the whole install, wire, antena and gps interface was just over a grand...A wise and inexpensive investment in the big scheme of things and best bang for your bucks...

    I hope you never have to find out if it works or not in auto or manual mode...but in a survival situation attitude is everything and knowing that help is on the way might make all the difference on that dark and stormy night between rescue and recovery...

    best of luck and safe skies

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    I'm an avionics tech out at Lake Hood, and we have Artex ME406's in all of our planes. The 50 second transmit time someone mentioned is spot on. When you're ops checking your unit at either the remote or main switch, you have to be sure to shut it off in less than 50 seconds. After that, you're transmitting a distress signal. The ME406 still has a built in 121.5MHz homing beacon and whip antenna to aid rescuers in that last mile of search area, but as someone else mentioned, VHF radio wave propagation can often bounce off and around mountains. (I've done it intentionally with a ham radio; it's called alternate or secondary path propagation-err something like that.) I also use that 121.5MHz beacon as my audible test for annual/100 hr inspections. (BTW, FCC regs require that to be done ONLY in the first 3 minutes after the top of each hour, not that anyone follows that.) Since some else commented on testing the data stream at annual, first of all, that is not a FAR 91 requirement, and second, it requires a pretty pricey tester. We don't have one, and I've never done it. I think it's safe to assume that, as long as you keep your registration updated, it's there.

    BTW, the older remote switch installations (the ones that use the 4 conductor phone line (at which I balk and laugh) have there own battery inside the switch that has to be changed every so often, but the newer ones (that use 22AWG aircraft wire) do not have that battery, so less maintenance. Overall, the ME406 is a good product, way better than what the airlines are using (they're still on the older ELT's) but then, they have a constant radar umberella coverage and a well established flight path; it's not hard to find a lost 757.

    Oh, BTW, someone mentioned building a test wire or something for one of the other brands. If it's what I think it is, a wire with an LED and a connector, they sell all of that stuff at Frigid North Electronics on Spenard, and, as long as you're not installing it into the plane, you don't have to use any "aviation" materials or get any approvals.

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    The Artex manual describes the 50 second delay and that a test should never exceed 45 seconds. It states the beacon is in test mode and that test mode is recognized by the rescue agencies but at 50 seconds it becomes an emergency beacon. That brings up a new question. Is the 50 second "test" period the same if the beacon is triggered by the G switch?

    The comment about the battery powered panel switches and supplied wire is questionable. There is no impact on the TSO compliance with either switch that Artex supplies, and they do supply both types. In fact the ME406 ACE uses a direct replacement switch to replace the old ACK D cell ELT panel switch and instructs the installer to re-use the original ACK telephone-type cable. In that switch installation there is no external power requirement so the ELT operates completely independently of the aircraft electrical system. That doesn't sound like a bad thing to me. I'm not sure what happens to a panel powered switch in a total power failure. Anyone know?

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    Quote Originally Posted by FL2AK-Old Town View Post
    I'm an avionics tech out at Lake Hood, and we have Artex ME406's in all of our planes. The 50 second transmit time someone mentioned is spot on. When you're ops checking your unit at either the remote or main switch, you have to be sure to shut it off in less than 50 seconds. After that, you're transmitting a distress signal. The ME406 still has a built in 121.5MHz homing beacon and whip antenna to aid rescuers in that last mile of search area, but as someone else mentioned, VHF radio wave propagation can often bounce off and around mountains. (I've done it intentionally with a ham radio; it's called alternate or secondary path propagation-err something like that.) I also use that 121.5MHz beacon as my audible test for annual/100 hr inspections. (BTW, FCC regs require that to be done ONLY in the first 3 minutes after the top of each hour, not that anyone follows that.) Since some else commented on testing the data stream at annual, first of all, that is not a FAR 91 requirement, and second, it requires a pretty pricey tester. We don't have one, and I've never done it. I think it's safe to assume that, as long as you keep your registration updated, it's there.

    BTW, the older remote switch installations (the ones that use the 4 conductor phone line (at which I balk and laugh) have there own battery inside the switch that has to be changed every so often, but the newer ones (that use 22AWG aircraft wire) do not have that battery, so less maintenance. Overall, the ME406 is a good product, way better than what the airlines are using (they're still on the older ELT's) but then, they have a constant radar umberella coverage and a well established flight path; it's not hard to find a lost 757.

    Oh, BTW, someone mentioned building a test wire or something for one of the other brands. If it's what I think it is, a wire with an LED and a connector, they sell all of that stuff at Frigid North Electronics on Spenard, and, as long as you're not installing it into the plane, you don't have to use any "aviation" materials or get any approvals.
    Just a couple notes:

    Yeah, get all the parts to make the tester from frigid north. I don't think I implied you couldn't and you are correct its an LED and connector with a resister.

    A couple corrections however: It does not require a pricey tester if you have an ACK. It requires the tester mentioned. Also, if you really want to get into the NMEA sentence and see the output you can plug it into your laptop if you want to get that deep. I choose just to see the sentence is processed. True, not required...... In my opinion; very smart though as I've seen a couple problems. Both were GPS settings and nothing wrong with the ELT.

    Some of the "newer ones" still require a battery inside the switch, not a "22AWG aircraft wire" depending on the brand. ACK does. No wires. Also ACK has a audible horn that will alert you the elt is going off that I install under the panel on my installs. These are all reasons I like the unit.

    FCC regs require the test in the first 5 minutes after the hour.

    One question though; What happens to the remote controller functions when you have a total electrical failure with one of those that are hard wired? You must lose the functionality? I would much rather change a battery every few years if thats the trade off.

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    Thaks for the corrections. I'm really only familiar with the ME406 units. The unpowered remote switch is just that, a switch. All it does is turn the ELT on. If you have a total electrical failure and you loose power, you can activate the ELT with the remote switch and the ELT is powered by it's own internal battery pack. The ELT is not powered by the aircraft electrical system anyway. Now, if those wires from the remote switch to the ELT are severed, then no, you're not turning anything on from the cockpit.

    I'm not a pilot, but I figure it like this: if your day has gotten so bad that you're activating the ELT from the cockpit, your workload is probably pretty high at the moment; let the impact turn the ELT on for you. If you survive, you can go to the empennage, remove the ELT and manually activate it from the unit itself.

    Quote Originally Posted by AK-HUNT View Post
    Just a couple notes:

    Yeah, get all the parts to make the tester from frigid north. I don't think I implied you couldn't and you are correct its an LED and connector with a resister.

    A couple corrections however: It does not require a pricey tester if you have an ACK. It requires the tester mentioned. Also, if you really want to get into the NMEA sentence and see the output you can plug it into your laptop if you want to get that deep. I choose just to see the sentence is processed. True, not required...... In my opinion; very smart though as I've seen a couple problems. Both were GPS settings and nothing wrong with the ELT.

    Some of the "newer ones" still require a battery inside the switch, not a "22AWG aircraft wire" depending on the brand. ACK does. No wires. Also ACK has a audible horn that will alert you the elt is going off that I install under the panel on my installs. These are all reasons I like the unit.

    FCC regs require the test in the first 5 minutes after the hour.

    One question though; What happens to the remote controller functions when you have a total electrical failure with one of those that are hard wired? You must lose the functionality? I would much rather change a battery every few years if thats the trade off.

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    Good day. i have been following this topic with interst and this week had a visit from one of the ELT manufacturers at our local club meeting. There are so many different type of ELT's to choose from . the ones that have built in GPS seem like a no brainer . there are some that accept gps input from onboard systems and then other ELT's that have their own gps built in to them. one feature that seems to be overlooked is the temperature rating for these devices. All of them are only rated for -20C and most of us will see that on a regular basis over the winter months. This one ELT has built in gps and has an approved temperature rating of -40C and they say they have tested to -55C. i have spoken to some of our club members about the telephone hook up cable with some ELT's and i cant see why anyone would want something like that to save their life. but to each their own.
    The company that spoke at our club meeting was the Skyhunter ELT. Anyone had any experiance with them???????

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    Quote Originally Posted by FL2AK-Old Town View Post
    Thaks for the corrections. I'm really only familiar with the ME406 units. The unpowered remote switch is just that, a switch. All it does is turn the ELT on. If you have a total electrical failure and you loose power, you can activate the ELT with the remote switch and the ELT is powered by it's own internal battery pack. The ELT is not powered by the aircraft electrical system anyway. Now, if those wires from the remote switch to the ELT are severed, then no, you're not turning anything on from the cockpit.

    I'm not a pilot, but I figure it like this: if your day has gotten so bad that you're activating the ELT from the cockpit, your workload is probably pretty high at the moment; let the impact turn the ELT on for you. If you survive, you can go to the empennage, remove the ELT and manually activate it from the unit itself.
    Have you installed an ME406? My first one was a Standard ME406 and the panel switch did require connection to aircraft power. I called Artex and they sent me the ACE panel switch instead. It uses a 5 year litium battery to power the switch but it still requires grounding to the airframe. Your comment that the remote switch is just a switch and isn't powered is inconsistent with my installation experience. I installed a second unit in another airplane and elected to use the ACE model again for the self-powered panel switch. The jacketed telephone cable has worked perfectly. No surprise. It worked perfectly for lots of years with the ACK 121.5 units, too.

    I did read my manual about loss of ship's power or failure of the panel switch wires. The manual states the ELT will operate normally but the panel switch will not be able to control the beacon.

    AK-Hunt, the Artex beacons have a "horn" that's installed to alert anyone around the plane that the beacon is active. I believe the external horn (it's tiny and is more of a beeper) is required by the TSO. During my first installation I kept hearing my cell phone beeping while I was doing the contortionist thing upside down under the panel hooking up the switch. I finally reached my phone to see what the beep was. It wasn't the phone, it was the "horn" on the ELT and it was active since the panel switch ground had failed and the panel switch wasn't working. I guess it wasn't going off for longer than 50 seconds because I never got "the call".

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