General Aviation

Published on March 29th, 2017 | by Mark Dwyer


ELT or PLB are compulsory equipment on certified aircraft

Since the implementation of Part NCO (Non-Commercial operations with Other-than-complex-powered aircraft) last August, it is a requirement to carry an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) on light aeroplanes and helicopters used privately. Sailplanes and Balloons are required to carry an ELT or PLB when used over water, if deemed appropriate by the pilot-in-command.

There is no alleviation to this requirement, even if you are not leaving the circuit you need an ELT or PLB! This applies to EU registered aircraft and those registered in other countries. ELTs and PLBs must be capable of transmitting simultaneously on 121.5 MHz and 406 MHz. If your aircraft was first issued with an individual Certificate of Airworthiness (CofA) on or before 1 July 2008, the ELT may be of any kind. Aircraft with an individual CofA issued after 1 July 2008 must have an automatic type ELT; unless carriage of a PLB is permitted instead.

There are different types of ELTs; Automatic Fixed (ELT(AF)), Automatic portable (ELT(AP)), Automatic deployable (ELT(AD)) and Survival (ELT(S)). Automatic ELTs are activated by impact or, sometimes, by contact with water. Fixed ELTs are permanently attached to the aircraft whereas portable are not. Deployable ELTs are rigidly attached to aircraft and then automatically ejected, deployed and activated by an impact or, sometimes, by contact with water. Survival ELTs may be activated manually or automatically; they are removable from an aircraft.

Once installed, the battery on the ELT must be replaced/recharged regularly. ELTs must be registered with the Irish Aviation Authority. PLBs must be registered with the Commission for Communications Regulation. Registering the details of your ELT or PLB ensures that the people responsible for initiating search and rescue will have the best possible information available to them.

Personal Locator Beacon

Some aircraft are not required to have an ELT installed when a crew member or passenger carries a PLB. A PLB is an emergency beacon other than an ELT that broadcasts distinctive signals on designated frequencies, is standalone, portable and is manually activated by the survivors. When operated non-commercially, the following aircraft types may use a PLB in place of an ELT:

  • Aeroplanes certified for a maximum passenger seating configuration of six or fewer, or
  • Helicopters certified for a maximum passenger seating configuration of six or fewer, or
  • Sailplanes and Balloons.

When a PLB is carried by a passenger, he/she should be briefed on its characteristics and use by the pilot-in-command before the flight.

Flight Permit (Annex II) aircraft

Part NCO requirements do not apply to Annex II light aircraft, such as microlights, classic/vintage, homebuilt and gyrocopters. In Ireland, Aeronautical Notice O.15 still gives the rules about ELTs for Annex II aircraft. ELTs are generally required for flight over water, international flights and on helicopters.

What else has changed?

Part NCO has replaced the IAA Operations Order and has some slightly different requirements. It’s worth reading the AMC and GM to Part NCO to ensure your aircraft meets the new requirements.

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About the Author

Mark is an airline pilot flying the Boeing 737 for a major European airline. In addition he is also a Type Rating Instructor, Type Rating Examiner and Base Training Captain on the B737. Outside of commercial flying Mark enjoys flying light aircraft from the smallest 3 Axis microlights up to heavier singles. He is also an instructor and EASA Examiner on single engines and a UK CAA Examiner. He flies the Chipmunk for the Irish Historic Flight Foundation (IHFF). Mark became the Chairman of the National Microlight Association of Ireland (NMAI) in 2013 and has overseen a massive growth in the organisation. In this role he has worked at local and national levels. In 2015, Mark won ‘Upcoming Aviation Professional Award’ at the Aviation Industry Awards sponsored by the IAA. Mark launched this website back in 2002 while always managing the website, he has also been Editor and Deputy Editor of FlyingInIreland Magazine from 2005 to 2015.

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