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Search for distress signal is 'plane sailing' for Ofcom engineer

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Search for distress signal is 'plane sailing' for Ofcom engineer

Old 20th Jan 2019, 15:45
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Search for distress signal is 'plane sailing' for Ofcom engineer

This is a confusing story.. Search for distress signal is 'plane sailing' for Ofcom engineer

It doesn't instil much confidence for me flying across the channel and to channel islands.. Can someone elaborate on this? What is the actual process of what happens behind the scenes if you ditch in the channel and activate your PLB?

Thanks
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Old 20th Jan 2019, 16:05
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Interesting report and thanks for sharing.

I cant quite make out the type of beacon on the photo but I found this from an aaib report about a 406 MHz beacon...G-BYSA the accident in this report happened at 1015 and the first rescue asset was sent at 1108!

The pilotís PLB was equipped with a 406 MHz transmitter, which is detectable by satellites of the Cospas-Sarsat Programme. In order to determine an approximate position of the activated beacon, more than one satellite pass was required.
At 1036 hrs, a downlink from a satellite pass alerted the UK Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC) to the activation of the beacon. A further satellite pass at 1056 hrs was required to resolve the beaconís location in the approximate area of the accident. The ARCC attempted to contact the beaconís registered owner (the pilot) and made further enquiries, to determine the nature of the incident and decide on the appropriate response1. At 1108 hrs, a land-based Coastguard rescue team was tasked to the area of the accident. This was followed later by the deployment of RNLI lifeboats and a SAR helicopter.
The ARCC commented that GPS-enabled PLBís will generally allow much quicker location of the transmitter than those without this capability. Additionally, the more information and, in particular, contact details that owners include when registering a PLB, the quicker the ARCC can respond and the higher the probability of them deploying the correct rescue assets.
Additional information on what happens when a PLB is activated can be found at
www.cospas-sarsat.int/en/
so, unless you either make and have received a mayday call or have a GNSS enabled beacon AND someone to answer the registered phone number and say (s)he is flying to the Channel Islands... then donít expact anything to happen quickly.
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Old 20th Jan 2019, 16:15
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Thanks for the details. Yes it seems like he didn't make any Mayday call or anything. It's strange, did he crash the plane then just go home for tea and not inform anybody?
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Old 20th Jan 2019, 16:23
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The passage speaks for itself. For a 406 ELT/PLB to be located, more satellite passes are required to improve location precision. The first pass tells SAR that it's been activated, subsequent passes improve the location precision. They can dispatch, and refine the search area enroute. Normally, an SAR dispatch will be combined with some phone calls to determine if it's a false alarm, with the beacon location being a factor. If the reported location is apparently an airport for a landplane, It's worth some phoning around to see if the beacon was set off by a rough landing, or switch bumping in a parked airplane. If the apparent location is away from an airport, and the airplane is known to be flying, it's moe worth consideration as a possible crash.

The systems works. For a time, a Norwegian based Cessna 182 amphibian was still registered to me in Canada, as a Canadian airplane. One early Saturday morning, I got the phone call that my 406 ELT was activated - in Norway. Yes, I told SAR, that's where the plane is. They asked me where it was based, and courtesy of a quick glance on Google Earth, I provided the lat long for both of the two lakes at which it normally resided. Yes, the more northerly lake was to location of the beacon. However, it's a remote lake, so no one had any way of knowing if it was an errant activation in a safely parked airplane, or the owner had actually crashed at the lake. Norwegian SAR was tasked to the lake. During that time, I made a few frantic phone calls to Norway, and was able to confirm that it had been an errant activation in a safely parked airplane (visiting kid flicking cockpit switches unseen). Within 45 minutes of the first phone call to me, all was resolved and SAR stood down. If I had not stood them down (had not been able to contact the owner), they would have flown up to his lake, and presumably seen the plane safely parked on its stand on shore. I was happily reassured that a system which we call upon rarely works when needed.
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Old 20th Jan 2019, 17:07
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Originally Posted by Pilot DAR View Post
The passage speaks for itself. For a 406 ELT/PLB to be located, more satellite passes are required to improve location precision. The first pass tells SAR that it's been activated, subsequent passes improve the location precision. They can dispatch, and refine the search area enroute. Normally, an SAR dispatch will be combined with some phone calls to determine if it's a false alarm, with the beacon location being a factor. If the reported location is apparently an airport for a landplane, It's worth some phoning around to see if the beacon was set off by a rough landing, or switch bumping in a parked airplane. If the apparent location is away from an airport, and the airplane is known to be flying, it's moe worth consideration as a possible crash.

The systems works. For a time, a Norwegian based Cessna 182 amphibian was still registered to me in Canada, as a Canadian airplane. One early Saturday morning, I got the phone call that my 406 ELT was activated - in Norway. Yes, I told SAR, that's where the plane is. They asked me where it was based, and courtesy of a quick glance on Google Earth, I provided the lat long for both of the two lakes at which it normally resided. Yes, the more northerly lake was to location of the beacon. However, it's a remote lake, so no one had any way of knowing if it was an errant activation in a safely parked airplane, or the owner had actually crashed at the lake. Norwegian SAR was tasked to the lake. During that time, I made a few frantic phone calls to Norway, and was able to confirm that it had been an errant activation in a safely parked airplane (visiting kid flicking cockpit switches unseen). Within 45 minutes of the first phone call to me, all was resolved and SAR stood down. If I had not stood them down (had not been able to contact the owner), they would have flown up to his lake, and presumably seen the plane safely parked on its stand on shore. I was happily reassured that a system which we call upon rarely works when needed.
That's an interesting story. Good to know, thanks.
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Old 20th Jan 2019, 20:08
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Neither story gives me much confidence in a quick response. The time interval between ATC reporting an aircraft missing, and the message being passed to the rescue services, mentioned in the AAIB report into the Pa28 crash in Loch Fyne was also long.
Living on the coast, I see lifeboats and Coastguard helicopter and ground team responses to "false alarm with good intent", and am impressed by their speed.
The Coastguard helicopter has just left after practicing sea cliff rescue within earshot of my livingroom, ~40 NM from it's base. If the seaplane mentioned had crashed, survival in Norwegian water after 45+ minutes would be less likely. Why not respond in lieu of practice?
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Old 22nd Jan 2019, 07:41
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But don't all modern PLBs have a gps which transmits position on the 406 mhz beacon?
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Old 22nd Jan 2019, 08:54
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This might have some added importance / relevance given what happened last night. Sad news.
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Old 22nd Jan 2019, 18:40
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Originally Posted by LGW Vulture View Post
This might have some added importance / relevance given what happened last night. Sad news.
Ye it's strange that I just posted this then that happened, I was thinking about it earlier. Apparently they called off the search for that plane which is sad. As far as I can tell there was no Mayday, they just disappeared off radar. It was at night as well which makes S&R extremely difficult.
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