SC-229/WG-98 Publishes Emergency Locator Transmitter Standards and Enters A New Phase For RTCA Committees

    EUROCAE Working Group (WG) 98’s chairman, Philippe Plantin de Hugues of BEA obsessed over Air France’s Flight 447 for the two years before it was found. The international aviation community remains haunted by the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 the same way.

    SC-229 406 MHz Emergnecy Locator Transmitters was formed merely days after MH370 disappeared, in an eerie happenstance that showed how important a joint RTCA/ EUROCAE project to update Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) 406 MHz (MOPS) Minimum Operational Performance Standards would be.

    “Back in early 2013, I asked EUROCAE to create WG-98 in anticipation of ICAO standards to make sure that we will never lose an aircraft like MH370,” said Plantin de Hugues, Special Adviser on International Affairs/Senior Safety Investigator with Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses . “I was glad that RTCA decided to create SC-229 and to work jointly with the EUROCAE WG-98. Even when manufacturers are competitors in the WG, everybody worked together for the improvement of the ELT and to create the most advanced, robust solution to avoid a new MH370.”

    This shared determination to make it easier to find missing aircraft brought together avionics and aircraft manufacturers, along with airlines, search and rescue organizations, and governmental representatives to tackle the problem of making ELTs quicker to respond, more durable and more accurate, while meeting the requirements from ICAO. The joint group explored options to find the required performance to assure an ELT activates prior to accidents and to provide accurate accident positioning for first responders.

    “We had a good cross-section of people throughout the industry working on this and it was quite rewarding, with a lot of tie-ins to other projects,” said Tom Pack, Chief Technology Officer with ACR Electronics and Chairman of SC-229. “The document we accomplished is referenced by the ICAO standards and addresses the latest design, performance, installation and operational issues for 406 MHz emergency beacons.”

    Since its inception in 2013, the joint group held sixteen joint plenary sessions addressing ELT crashworthiness, global navigation satellite system specifications, power sources, second generation ELTs, in-flight trigger criteria and ELT survivability. The group’s joint MOPS was published in December 2018. Looking to the future, the committee is the first to be in a new status created by the PMC: Active Monitoring Status. As the industry continues to evolve and improve, the members of SC-229 and WG-98 want to keep meeting to discuss technical advances and make sure the RTCA and EUROCAE documents are relevant and consistent with other members of the search and rescue community.