Register & Test your 406 ELT!

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JasonE
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Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#1 Post by JasonE » Thu Jan 07, 2016 5:25 pm

As outlined in this month's COPA newsletter - you can now test your 406ELT and receive a verification email (provided it's correctly registered.) It's great to know it's working correctly. When I purchased our plane originally as a student pilot, no one told me I had to re-register the beacon. It was 4 months afterwards I figured that out when it was time for the annual certification.

So register your beacon & test it if you haven't already! (In accordance with CARS 571 - Appedix G, during the first 5 min of any UTC) You also need to update the registry every 12 months as reminded in the email below. I tested mine today:

Please note that this message was automatically generated in response to a 'self-test' by a 406MHz beacon.


Beacon Hexcode : XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Associated With : C-XXXX
Date of Test : 2016-01-07
Authorized Name : XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Company :
This 406MHz beacon registration is currently : up to date.
Beacon Information last updated : 2015-06-12


Update your registration every 12 months. ENSURE THAT YOU CLICK 'SAVE' AT THE BOTTOM OF EACH PAGE(Owner,Beacon,Aircraft,Vessel and Contacts). This will place a new current time stamp on each page proving that you have reviewed the information and verified it as valid and correct.

You may review your 406MHz Beacon registration details at the following link:
Canadian Beacon Registry Login
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#2 Post by stinson10a » Tue Jan 19, 2016 10:41 am

Good advice for sure but in reality how many pilots are actually registering them properly ? I have installed 2 and both owners lost the paper work and just fly around blissfully unaware that the ELT wont do what it supposed to do . Most owners don't even fill out their AAIR properly never mind annual re registration of the 406 ELT. As AMEs we test the ELT IAW CAR625 C but are we supposed to check for proper registration as well? I don't I just do the 5 for 5 test ( first five for five fool) ? I think the system needs to be simplified Also many owners still cart around their old 125 elt or no ELT at all . Making systems "better " sometimes makes them too complicated. It would be interesting to know how many 406 elts sold in Canada are properly registered I bet it is less than 50%.
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#3 Post by PilotDAR » Thu Jan 21, 2016 6:35 am

I attended the Transport Canada presentation in Barrie last evening, on exactly this topic. Very interesting, and now I get it, yes, register your 406! The other interesting point which was made was that if you choose to use a SPOT (which I do) to include the rescue coordination center phone number in your SPOT registered contacts, so that SPOT will phone the RCC right away. You're also advised to tell SPOT, so they tell RCC that you use the SPOT in your plane, and the details.
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#4 Post by Jungle Jim » Thu Jan 21, 2016 2:00 pm

I was at the Barrie meeting as well. I was surprised to hear that there are about 14,000 406 ELT's registered and over 18,000 121.5 ELT's still in use in Canada. Other than a slight cost difference the advantages of the 406 are signifcant over the unsupported 121.5 systems.

Jim
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#5 Post by PilotDAR » Thu Jan 21, 2016 6:53 pm

A guest at last night's presentation (who had more bravado than I) correctly asked why the government would not give a credit for owners to buy 406 ELTs, as they would be saving so much false alarm cost. The presenter simply smiled and said that was political. I'm sure he is not authorized to discuss the political side of the situation, but the fact remains that replacing ELT's has a cost (I will have to buy three). I can spend that cost to save DND operational costs, which I can also mitigate by other good notification practices.

Yet, I can have one SPOT, and functioning 121.5 ELT's in each plane, which are long ago paid for, and pretty well meet the same operational objective, as long as a responsible person is monitoring my SPOT. And, the 121.5 ELT's won't bother the satellites either! I guarantee you from recent first hand experience, that the yellow helicopter can still find a 121.5 ELT perfectly well - as I had one on my runway at 3AM, and two very nice fellows in red flight suits knocking on my front door... :oops:
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#6 Post by Pavese » Thu Jan 21, 2016 10:09 pm

Jungle Jim wrote:I was at the Barrie meeting as well. I was surprised to hear that there are about 14,000 406 ELT's registered and over 18,000 121.5 ELT's still in use in Canada. Other than a slight cost difference the advantages of the 406 are signifcant over the unsupported 121.5 systems.

Jim
If you are in need of a new ELT then your argument has some validity however for the remaining 121.5 ELT users who probably carry a SPOT as well, the argument is not compelling because:

a) The new ELTs, just like the old ones, still have the same fail to activate/communicate problems and from what I hear, in about the same percentage of the time. The alert percentage doesn't meet my personal required level of single point of failure reliability for a life & death scenario. The only plus of the 406 ELT is that if it transmits it will tell who is in trouble (if you have registered....) and give a better initial fix to do the home in on the 121.5 signal for the "find".

b) TC and other associated government agencies keep floating the "next big thing" ideas to replace the current "state of the art" 406 ELT (BTW, running electronics technology which is >15 years old) or looking at yet another scheme beyond the "next big thing". The latest "next big thing" is satellite based ADSB, not sure how compatible it may be with the USA ground based systems so that raises a flag for cross border operations. I'm not motivated to spend the $ to install a 406 ELT based on current performance and the probability that it will be obsolete in a few years.

BTW, the 15+ year old technology used in the current ELT uses what is called an OCXO (Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillator). That device contains an oscillator which is used to create the ELT transmit (frequency) signal and permit localization by Doppler shift. To be able to do the Doppler localization, the frequency of the oscillator must be extremely accurate and stable. To achieve this the oscillator is hermetically sealed in a small metal enclosure which has as close to a perfect vacuum as possible. To keep the oscillator as stable as possible, there is a heater inside the enclosure (hence the oven) to keep the temperature steady (and clearly above ambient). This device is one reason 406 ELTs are expensive, don't activate instantly, only transmit for a short burst per minute and have limited battery life. Of course for localization this technology has been overtaken by GPS but the 406 ELT still needs the OCXO to stay on the same narrow frequency band that the satellite is listening for so we see that our SAR infrastructure is "invested" in dated technology.

A re-vamp of the technology, putting a GPS in every 406 ELT and changing the transmitter & receiver frequency limits would probably reduce unit cost but we'd all have to go out and buy a new ELT to support the system so we're back to the part PilotDAR noted where we talk about how the user funds the savings achieved by the SAR system operators.

OK, down off the soap box.....

D 8)
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#7 Post by PilotDAR » Sat Jan 23, 2016 6:04 pm

Good post Pavese.

For some technology, and certainly including 40ELT, I tend to be a late adopter - hold off, and see if it catches on. I appreciate and respect the efforts of SAR, and certainly don't want them feeling as though I'm not contributing to the ease of their searching effort, but...

False alerts: I don't think my 121.5 going off in error bothers the satellites at all!

Precise locating: If my "responsible people" make a call based upon my flight notification, supplemented by SPOT information, I think the homing on my 121.5 ELT will be of equal effectiveness to a 406 (though I stand to be educated more, if I'm wrong). The presenters at the safety seminar weren't singing the praises of continued dependence on 121.5 only ELT, but listening between the lines, it sounds like 121.5 is still very useful, as long as the initial alert comes from another means, and with reasonable precision. A good flight plan, flight note, or SPOT accomplishes that with no pilot participation, and an able pilot might do even better with a cell/sat phone.

Failure to Activate: Any ELT can fail to activate for a number of reasons, and this was presented in the seminar as being a noticeable statistic. A responsibly monitored SPOT thrives on failure to activate to succeed in notifying. It is the failure to indicate arrival, and indication of the last known position which makes it work - if it dies in the crash, it's job has already been done successfully.

My Cost: I have to believe that 121.5 ELT(s) plus SPOT will have a lesser overall cost than 406 - particularly if the owner has more than one plane - as the SPOT goes plane to plane no problem.

Public Cost: I don't cost the public any more with a 121.5 ELT than a 406 as long as I assure that in the case of an emergency additional alerting and precision location information is provided to SAR (the responsible person), and I must prevent false activation, and actively post flight check for that.

For me, when one of my 121.5 ELT's dies, or is regulated out with certainty, I'll switch to 406, or whatever is later technology at that time. Until then, like many things in flying, I will carefully manage risk in emergency locating by thinking about what I'm doing, and how I'm doing it, rather than blindly depending on still imperfect systems.
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#8 Post by photofly » Sat Jan 23, 2016 6:50 pm


BTW, the 15+ year old technology used in the current ELT uses what is called an OCXO (Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillator). This device is one reason 406 ELTs are expensive, don't activate instantly, only transmit for a short burst per minute and have limited battery life. Of course for localization this technology has been overtaken by GPS but the 406 ELT still needs the OCXO to stay on the same narrow frequency band that the satellite is listening for so we see that our SAR infrastructure is "invested" in dated technology.

A re-vamp of the technology, putting a GPS in every 406 ELT and changing the transmitter & receiver frequency limits would probably reduce unit cost but we'd all have to go out and buy a new ELT to support the system so we're back to the part PilotDAR noted where we talk about how the user funds the savings achieved by the SAR system operators.

OK, down off the soap box.....

D 8)
Im not sure there's much technical merit in those comments. Why is transmitting in bursts an issue? Your cellphone does it, your wifi does it, and your Bluetooth headset does it. How is a two year battery replacement such a bad thing? My Spot unit goes flat in about two weeks- so often do the batteries need replacing that in fact that I've given up using it. How does a 50 second activation delay compromise my safety? And I don't think I want a rescue device that depends entirely on GPS. Plenty of opportunity for a lack of reception to screw things up.
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#9 Post by Pavese » Sun Jan 24, 2016 6:13 am

photofly wrote:Im not sure there's much technical merit in those comments. Why is transmitting in bursts an issue? Your cellphone does it, your wifi does it, and your Bluetooth headset does it. How is a two year battery replacement such a bad thing? My Spot unit goes flat in about two weeks- so often do the batteries need replacing that in fact that I've given up using it. How does a 50 second activation delay compromise my safety? And I don't think I want a rescue device that depends entirely on GPS. Plenty of opportunity for a lack of reception to screw things up.
Well said PilotDAR.

Photofly, for me your comments WRT burst come back to power management. They and some of my points underline that alert signal duration (life) is limited by the technology used for the transmitter and by battery capacity and that more up to date technology would permit longer transmission life (hours of the burst signal) or perhaps continuous transmission. Also, as I understand it some localization equipment homes on the 406 MHz signal not the 121.5 so tracking a 5 second in 60 duty cycle is more difficult (assuming GPS data gets you close and you use direction finding to actually locate the transmitter, or if it's a non-GPS ELT).

The 50 second warm-up is an issue in cases like an A/C on amphib floats landing on water with the gear down. The A/C will probably end up upside down with only the floats showing and no alert signal sent. As PilotDAR notes, absence of signal would cause an alert in that case with systems like SPOT.

My own crystal ball guess at the eventual "long term" solution? The ADSB concept of "big brother" receiving continuous signals from the A/C via satellite but I have concerns about the cost of the hardware for the individual A/C. That and the ever-present risk of TC Etc. coming up with "the next big thing" (not dissing keeping up with technology but it needs to be cost effective and on a timescale reasonable for the A/C owner footing the bill). Adopting ADSB would make cross border flying simpler after 2020 if it were compatible with the US ADSB implementation....

Maybe this is material for another thread but what do people out there think of the satellite ADSB proposal? What about how the USA ADSB requirement will affect cross border private GA?

D 8)
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#10 Post by photofly » Sun Jan 24, 2016 6:51 am

Pavese wrote:
Photofly, for me your comments WRT burst come back to power management. They and some of my points underline that alert signal duration (life) is limited by the technology used for the transmitter and by battery capacity and that more up to date technology would permit longer transmission life (hours of the burst signal) or perhaps continuous transmission. Also, as I understand it some localization equipment homes on the 406 MHz signal not the 121.5 so tracking a 5 second in 60 duty cycle is more difficult (assuming GPS data gets you close and you use direction finding to actually locate the transmitter, or if it's a non-GPS ELT).

The 50 second warm-up is an issue in cases like an A/C on amphib floats landing on water with the gear down. The A/C will probably end up upside down with only the floats showing and no alert signal sent. As PilotDAR notes, absence of signal would cause an alert in that case with systems like SPOT.
In a slightly less selfish world than this we might also appreciate that burst transmissions allow multiple ELTs to operate at once without interfering with each other, and an activation delay gives me the opportunity to reset my ELT if it activates incorrectly.

It's not intended to be a perfect system to rescue you if you can't land an amphib; we also have flight plans for aircraft that don't turn up on time. You're welcome to the voluntary use of a SPOT tracker (which itself transmits only in bursts, to conserve power and channel-share) right now if you feel vulnerable, and can advocate for some form of continuous monitoring to be mandatory if you wish, but I will campaign strongly against being tracked by the government everywhere I fly for "safety" reasons.
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#11 Post by Pavese » Sun Jan 24, 2016 1:57 pm

photofly wrote: if you feel vulnerable, and can advocate for some form of continuous monitoring to be mandatory if you wish, but I will campaign strongly against being tracked by the government everywhere I fly for "safety" reasons.
It is the Gov't of Canada who is advocating continuous monitoring, not myself.

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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#12 Post by CID » Mon Jan 25, 2016 10:48 am

Pavese, every radio in your stack has at least one tuning crystal including your GPS receiver. And they are just as you described and have been manufactured like that for decades. Some radios have ovens for the crystal (or crystals) and some don't depending on the application and the required accuracy.

So...don't think that some other technology will somehow get rid of the crystal. Just the oven. And if that is the case, the complexity and cost will just be applied elsewhere. No crystal oven? Then add a GPS receiver. What costs more?
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#13 Post by Taiser » Mon Jan 25, 2016 4:45 pm

Good info on here. I'm one who kept the 121 when I built my plane. Also carry a Spot and it seems very accurate... bonus my wife tracks me when flying so she finds that nice too. We had a TC dude at one of our flying club meetings a few years back and although he wasn't sure, but had a feeling that TC was working on something else as well (ADS-B?) and in his personal opinion the 121 set-up was fine for now until the 406's are completely enforced. Good enough for me. TC seems to take forever for anything and always winds up costing everyone serious cash... :(
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#14 Post by Pavese » Mon Jan 25, 2016 9:14 pm

CID wrote:Pavese, every radio in your stack has at least one tuning crystal including your GPS receiver. And they are just as you described and have been manufactured like that for decades. Some radios have ovens for the crystal (or crystals) and some don't depending on the application and the required accuracy.

So...don't think that some other technology will somehow get rid of the crystal. Just the oven. And if that is the case, the complexity and cost will just be applied elsewhere. No crystal oven? Then add a GPS receiver. What costs more?
Hi CID

My point exactly. The very narrow and stable bandwidth required to do Doppler location of the current 406 ELT means it can't use a standard piezo crystal and requires additional filtering to do things like keep the RF clean enough to comply with the RF spec. (harmonics etc.) If the ELT spec was changed to require an on-board GPS receiver then a relatively less restrictive frequency bandwidth/spec. (i.e., standard crystal oscillator) could be used. You save the cost of the OCXO , the additional signal management electronics ('course you might spend some of that on supporting the standard crystal transmitter section) and the battery capacity used to run the heater of the OCXO.

The GPS receiver should be low cost, they're becoming a commodity now with cell phones etc. using them, I could be proven wrong but I think the GPS receiver would be about 10% of the cost of an OCXO having just glanced at one of the on-line E-parts sites. Back when I was doing some work on an EPIRB the OCXO was the highest cost part of the unit.

Of course changing the spec would obsolete every new, expensive C-126 (406) ELT that everyone has shelled out for so that wouldn't be very popular either - it's never easy........

That's all academic of course unless the ELT can overcome it's inherent shortcomings for failure to activate/alert.


I'm keeping my SPOT close to me :wink:

D 8)
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#15 Post by photofly » Mon Jan 25, 2016 9:41 pm

Mouser has an OCXO module available for CAD$47. Their cheapest GPS module is $20. I'm going to guess you can get both for about one tenth of that amount, in a sensible production quantity, which means that the price differential is really quite small.
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#16 Post by Pavese » Tue Jan 26, 2016 6:47 am

photofly wrote:Mouser has an OCXO module available for CAD$47. Their cheapest GPS module is $20. I'm going to guess you can get both for about one tenth of that amount, in a sensible production quantity, which means that the price differential is really quite small.
The price of the OCXO will depend on the frequency, error permitted, operating temperature range etc. The transmit spec calls for 406.025 MHz +/-.005 MHz so if you give the OCXO all of that budget you'll pay about $100 for one at Digikey. The less costly ones don't have the frequency error limits and temperature range needed.

The ELT manufacturer may well buy the GPS chipsets and roll their own receivers, amortising the cost over EPIRBs, PLBs and ELTs so their unit cost would be less than an off the shelf GPS module. The chipsets are about $5.00 at Digikey. PLBs would be the big volume item, followed by EPIRBs, then ELTs. Typical GPS-PLBs go for about $US250 and the manufacturers are not paying Digikey/Mouser parts pricing. Figure on their cost to be between half to 10% of what you pay at those places.

Chances are installation is going to be a bigger factor than parts cost.

D 8)
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#17 Post by photofly » Tue Jan 26, 2016 7:09 am

Out of interest, the $47 OCXO in the Mouser catalogue - the cheapest one they stock - is listed as -40C +85C +-50 ppb. I wonder if you can get an OCXO that's significantly worse than that; I can't think why anyone would make one. Which is the one you have in mind at Digikey?

The transmit spec you quote of 406.025 MHz +/-.005 MHz works out at 12ppm or 12,000 ppb. That's a lot of frequency error budget left over.

I don't know if -40 to +85C is a reasonable temperature range, but it sounds so.
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#18 Post by Pavese » Tue Jan 26, 2016 6:13 pm

photofly wrote:Out of interest, the $47 OCXO in the Mouser catalogue - the cheapest one they stock - is listed as -40C +85C +-50 ppb. I wonder if you can get an OCXO that's significantly worse than that; I can't think why anyone would make one. Which is the one you have in mind at Digikey?

The transmit spec you quote of 406.025 MHz +/-.005 MHz works out at 12ppm or 12,000 ppb. That's a lot of frequency error budget left over.

I don't know if -40 to +85C is a reasonable temperature range, but it sounds so.
That part doesn't seem to have standby mode, that's probably the big difference in cost. I'm assuming that's for a power saver between transmission bursts but I could be mistaken.

Interesting to read what they quote for factors like manufacturing tolerance (500 ppb), aging (3000 ppb quoted), post soldering shift (1000 ppb) that affect the net ppb but of course 12,000 is quite a few ppb but I suppose it all adds up!

WRT the temp spec, I saw one that was 50 ppb down to 0C but by -40 it was 500 ppb! The one you mention is 50 ppb @ -40 though. The C-126 spec calls for storage to -55 and operation down to -20 which isn't that cold so I wonder if you're on your own below that :shock:

Interesting stuff....

D 8)
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#19 Post by jschnurr » Tue Jan 26, 2016 7:17 pm

If anyone can build a 406 ELT to aviation spec for less than $100, photofly can. It would probably also include an optical tach as well...
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#20 Post by CID » Fri Jan 29, 2016 10:27 am

I had more to add but never mind.....
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Re: Register & Test your 406 ELT!

#21 Post by AeroncaS15AC » Mon Sep 11, 2017 6:20 pm

Point of Interest.
The 406 ELT testing APP of the Canadian Beacon Registry has been U/S for the past several weeks.
The Registry people say they did not know about the problem until last week ( most likely someone questioned why they were not getting the email confirmation...like me! ) and may take the rest of the week to get back to serviceability.
Hope the satellites are doing a better job for the $$$ spent.
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