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EPIRB / PLB's... Buy or wait?

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I am in the market to purchase a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)


but am in somewhat of a quandary, as if I buy one of the current units


which I understand will be phased out in the near future in favour of a


newer standard which allows for better response times, different


frequency's, a personal ID tag and the use of GPS... What do I do?


Yes, I fully understand re requirements and fairdinkum need to carry a


PLB, but in buying a ‘current’ unit err tomorrow… means just around the


corner I’ll have to throw it away, more costs, an purchase one of the


newer spec’d models. The other glitch is the newer units are presently


quite expensive and have been wondering as to if and when their unit


pricing will come down to a more acceptable level.


As a side issue, the calling of these unit as EPIRB's (Emergency position indicating radiobeacons), is I believe, an old and unsuitable phrase, sounds like something a committee came up with... cringe.


I'd be interested in the current 'thinking' I this area?





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Hi Rodger,


Having recently gone through this decision process


myself, my advice is to outlay the $250 or so investment now in the


hope that the superseding system will be more affordable as the demand


increases. The 121.5 mHz model will be current until sometime 2009 (who knows, this may even be extended as authorities encounter user resistance to upgrade) so in my thinking $250 amortised over 3 or 4 years is pretty affordable assurance when XC flying.


I ended up buying a GME MT310 for $235 (jncl GST) in March as this is a neat, compact unit (160 x 65 x 25) in protective pouch and with lanyard and weighing just 210g all up.




considering is including on your pre-flight checks an item reminding


you to attach the unit to your person in case of mishap. There's not


much point having it tucked away in the baggage hold or somewhere else


inaccessible in time of emergency.


Enjoy your flying, it's the only way to go.





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G’day, Paul,


Many thanks for your input and thoughts. Yes, I tend to agree with you


now with the PLB as 2009 is still quite a way off and yes, our


government has been well known in stretching dates. Just look at the


digital TV stuff-up.


I also checked out another locally produced PLB which, on paper,


appears to give better performance but the down side was at is more


bulky which is an issue with recreational aviation.


Your comment re pre-flight checks and PLB’s is a VERY good point indeed!


As for carrying items, myself, I use an old photojournalist vest which


has many pockets, pencil slots, holders and zipped holder compartments,


etc in-which I carry just about all my navigation bits an pieces,


notebooks, ready reckoners, small food bars, spare glasses, a back-up


compact GPS unit and of-course a soon-to-be PLB…


I know it may sound like a lot of materials but most of it has been


specially chosen for size and light-weights, etc and this way one dose


not have to worry too much if some turbulence or it one opens a window


for some photography, etc, the wind wont start causing pit dramas. Also I then know where everything is too...


Yours in recreational flying,





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The whole question of EPIRB / PLB's has also been on my mind of late. I


mean seeing my aircraft is being used for training and club member hire


- and I presume these people do not have their own PLB, do I get one


fitted in the aircraft, have a loose one in the aircraft or what. I


read a magazine article recently saying that offcourse it is always


better to have one for the aircraft (you may be left unconcious) and one for yourself (the aircraft may burn) but then you are looking at some serious money for that.




I am led to believe, that the new ones are ok for under water wheras


the current ones are useless if they are in the aircraft and it goes


down over water.


So, I need to get something and your post seems


to have come at an appropriate time so apart from this, is it worth


while perhaps for the RAA to maybe having a look at bulk purchasing a


suggested one and then on sold to members at cost, afterall we are


talking about peoples lives here. If they do not wish to get involved


then perhaps something could be done via this forum - any thoughts on





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Hello Ian,


I suggest, if your plane is for hire, one of the


conditionsmight be that the hirer provides his/her own EPIRB for XC


flight. Fittingan ELTto the plane is probably excessive, that is, if


your plane is in sufficiently OK condition after going down for the on


board ELT to function, chances are you and your personal EPIRB will


still be functioning OK too. Also, if when you are downed (God forbid) you manage to scramble from the wreckage before it explodesin a ball offire (nightmare stuff, eh? I must be thinking Gazelle or similar here) having a personal EPIRBabout your personcould bea good thing.


With respect to waterproof functionality of your personal EPIRB, you will find that most if not all models are waterproof (the GME MT310 certainly is).


This means that in case of ditching, after you've successfully donned


anddeployed your life jacket and you're sitting on your conveniently


bouyant CT wing avoiding sharks, you can then get about activating your


EPIRB confident that it is still operational. Don't know about working


under water, but I guess if your 20m down it won't really matter






like Rodger's idea of the photojournalist vest with all those pockets.


When I fly I hang my EPIRB from a lanyard about my neck and slipped


into a pocket if available.


But, of course, all this is hyperthetical as CT's don't go down withoutbeing pointing down toward a nice clean runway.




about buying in stocks of these gadgets for distribution to members at


cost, I think this is dream-time stuff, esp considering their limited


shelf life (redundancy in 2009 or so). If an individual pilot values his/her life enough, he/she will make the effort to go get one.


Wish this wind would go away!!!





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G’day Ian,


On you point as to whether you buy an internal EPIRB and have it fitted


to your aircraft I believe the costs would be through-the-roof and as


we are talking of recreational aircraft I’d have to say that, that idea


would not be an option.


As to having a unit err… just laying about stowed somewhere inside


personal area of an aircraft again I believe this would cause you major


headaches as it’d very easily ‘go missing’ or be activated by someone


wondering what this neat little “black-box†does causing all sorts of


additional heartburn to yourself as owner of the aircraft.


On the balance of responsibility, etc I’d say there may be two options, (a)


Have a unit that you can hire to the individual but that would possibly


require you to give suitable instruction, etc, etc which would have to


be padded into the hire fee… or (b) Have written into


your hire process the caution/request that it is the pilots


responsibility to ensure he/she has a PLB. This option though I can see


has problems assicated with it as how many student or new pilots have a


PLB with them?


Operations under water… hmmmm Reading up on the tests done by a major


yachting journal a while back it would appear that even the so-called


top of the range models when thrown into the sea and used as per the


instructions of the various companies saw serious operational


difficulties and major loss of signal performance and that was with


them on the surface of the water. They are most certainly better than


nothing and given good luck (well, you did survive the ditching eh! ) having any EPIRB or PLB must be a plus.


Actually when you think about it, either way there are many areas of concern with your orginal question… :-<>


Your thought as to the possible bulk purchase of like said items, as


has been pointed out elsewhere, there are issues and I am of the belief


that it comes down to ourselves as to what we do in this area.


Ok Ian, that’s my twenty cents worth and like you am interested in what other may have to say on this subject too.







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Hi All


Lets keep working on the KIS princible. An EPIRB could save you or your passengers life. So how much is it worth? Just divide the cost by the flying hours over the life of the article and then divide that cost by what you think your life is worth and then say how much was it worth!







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I investigated EPIRBs recently on another aviation matter and the advice from AMSA was that if you want a small 406MHZ unit you should wait a little as they are lobbying for a reduction in a couple of EPIRB international design codes that would make them cheaper and smaller (which was important to my other matter).


There is a bit about it on AMSA's website.


But if you need something now and want to go with today's technology and the threat of Feb 2009 closure of one of the existing systems ... then don't wait.


Hope this helps. Geoff



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  • 2 weeks later...

Just did the same exercise, and ended up buying an MT310 EPIRB for $238 (PP delivered) from Johnny Appleseed in Brisbane. I needed something now for a planned trip through some very remote areas next month, and as has been suggested elsewhere I think the analog monitoring will continue beyond the planned shutoff - even if it doesnt I will keep the MT310 until the battery is expired as a backup because I think airline aircraft will still be monitoring 121.5 in the cruise.


The money I have spent will hopefully be more than made up for by the cost reduction come time that I require the 406mhz unit - hopefully enough to include a unit with GPS locator included.


Waiting and not getting anything didnt make for a sound option in my personal view.



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