[Federal Register Volume 65, Number 247 (Friday, December 22, 2000)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 81315-81319]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 00-32511]

[[Page 81315]]


Part X

Department of Transportation


Federal Aviation Administration


14 CFR Part 91

Emergency Locator Transmitters; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 65, No. 247 / Friday, December 22, 2000 / 
Rules and Regulations

[[Page 81316]]



Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Part 91

[Docket No. FAA-2000-8552 Amendment No. 91-265]
RIN No. 2120-AH16

Emergency Locator Transmitters

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT,

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: This final rule is being issued to comply with 
Congressionally-mandated changes to FAA requirements for emergency 
locator transmitters. This legislation removed the current exception of 
turbojet-powered aircraft from the emergency locator transmitter 
requirement, and added a new exception for aircraft with a maximum 
payload capacity of more than 18,000 pounds when used in air 
transportation. The intended effect of this rule change is to 
facilitate search and rescue efforts by increasing the likelihood of 
locating turbojet-powered aircraft after accidents.

DATES: This regulation is effective December 22, 2000. However, 
compliance with the new ELT requirements in Sec. 91.207 is delayed 
until January 1, 2004.

Standards Service, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence 
Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591. Telephone: (202) 267-7956.


Availability of Final Rules

    You can get an electronic copy using the Internet by taking the 
following steps:
    (1) Go to the search function of the Department of Transportation's 
electronic Docket Management System (DMS) Web page (http://dms.dot.gov/search).
    (2) On the search page type in the last four digits of the Docket 
number shown at the beginning of this amendment. Click on ``search.''
    (3) On the next page, which contains the Docket summary information 
for the Docket you selected, click on the final rule.
    You can also get an electronic copy using the Internet through 
FAA's web page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/armhome.htm or the Federal 
Register's web page at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces140.html.
    You can also get a copy by submitting a request to the Federal 
Aviation Administration, Office of Rulemaking, ARM-1, 800 Independence 
Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591, or by calling (202) 267-9680. Make 
sure to identify the amendment number or docket number of this final 

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) of 
1996, requires the FAA to comply with small entity requests for 
information or advice about compliance with statutes and regulations 
withinnits jurisdiction. Therefore, any small entity that has a 
question regarding this document may contact their local FAA official, 
or the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. You can 
find out more about SBFEFA on the Internet at our site http://www.faa.gov/avr/arm/sbrefa.htm. For more information on SBREFA, e-mail 
us at [email protected].


    In 1971, responding to a Congressional mandate for rulemaking (Pub. 
L. 91-96), the FAA adopted amendments to parts 25, 29, 91, 121, and 135 
of title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to require the 
installation and use of Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs), 
automatic or survival, as required, that met the requirements of 
Technical Standard Order (TSO)-C91.
    The amendments required that certain U.S.-registered civil 
airplanes be equipped with automatic ELTs. An automatic ELT is a crash-
activated electronic signaling device used to facilitate search and 
rescue efforts in locating downed aircraft. The ELTs crash sensor is 
commonly called a G-switch (an actuation device that operates on 
acceleration forces measured in G's; one G denotes the acceleration of 
the earth's gravity). In most installations, the ELT is attached to the 
aircraft structure as far aft as practicable in the fuselage in such a 
manner that damage to the device will be minimized in the event of 
    Certain aircraft, such as turbojet-powered aircraft and aircraft 
engaged in scheduled air carrier operations, were excepted from this 
requirement because they were considered to be more readily located 
after an accident and because they operate within the air traffic 
control system and their operators have filed instrument flight plans.
    The rule was applicable to those airplanes that were considered to 
be most difficult to locate after an accident, such as general aviation 
type airplanes. An ELT was considered particularly helpful in locating 
an airplane that is operated by a pilot who does not file a flight plan 
or operate within the air traffic control system on an instrument 
flight plan.
    Since the adoption of those amendments requiring installation of 
ELTs, there had been unsatisfactory field experience with the automatic 
ELTs manufactured under TSO-C91, specifically, a significant failure-
to-activate rate, and false alarms. (NTSB Safety Recommendations A-78-5 
through A-78-12, issued in 1978 addressed some of these ELT problems.) 
As a result, the FAA requested RTCA, Inc. (formerly the Radio Technical 
Commission for Aeronautics) to develop a revised technical standard 
that would address these problems. The RTCA project produced a minimum 
operational performance standard that was referenced in TSO-C91a, 
issued in April 1985. Installation of ELTs that met this improved 
standard, however, was voluntary.
    Following the issuance of the new TSO, in 1987 the NTSB issued 
safety recommendation A-87-104, that recommended that existing ELTs be 
replaced with ELTs that comply with TSO-C91a by 1989. That safety 
recommendation also urged that ELTs be subject to specific maintenance 
    In October 1990, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
(NASA) and the FAA completed a report entitled, ``Current Emergency 
Locator Transmitter (ELT) Deficiencies and Potential Improvements 
Utilizing TSO-C91a ELTs.'' This report consolidated and analyzed most 
of the known data on ELT problems and quantified the safety problem. 
General aviation accident and fatality data from the NTSB formed the 
cornerstone of the report. The most significant conclusions derived 
from the report showed: 23 to 58 lives were lost per year due to rescue 
operations made more difficult because of ELT failures. Fifteen percent 
of ELT failures were attributed to poor or no ELT maintenance; and, 
after excluding lives lost attributed to maintenance-related ELT 
failures, 64 percent or 13 to 31 of the lives lost each year could have 
been saved with a complete transition to TSO-C91a ELTs.
    Based on the known unsatisfactory performance of the TSO-C91 ELTs 
during the 1970's and 1980's, the FAA issued Notice No. 90-11 (55 FR 
12316 April 2, 1990). This notice proposed that ELTs approved under 
TSO-C91a (or later issued TSOs for ELTs) be required for all future 
installations. The NPRM further proposed that the manufacture of the 
TSO-C91 ELTs be

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simultaneously terminated with issuance of a final rule. The term 
``future installations'' applied to newly manufactured airplanes, and 
to the replacement of existing ELTs as they became unusable or 
unserviceable. Additionally, the FAA solicited comments on the need for 
a fleet-wide ELT replacement program and specific maintenance 
    On June 21, 1994, the FAA issued a final rule requiring that newly 
installed ELTs on U.S.-registered aircraft be of an improved design 
that met the requirements of TSO-C91a or later TSOs issued for ELTs (54 
FR 32057). The final rule also addressed certain safety recommendations 
made by the NTSB and the search and rescue (SAR) community. The FAA 
also adopted improved standards for survival ELTs. The rule was 
expected to have a dramatic effect on reducing activation failures and 
would increase the likelihood of locating airplanes after accidents. In 
addition, publication of the final rule coincided with notice of the 
FAA's withdrawal of manufacturing authority for ELTs produced under 
    This final rule was amended with a correction, published on July 6, 
1994, which stated that ELTs meeting the requirements of TSO-C91 could 
no longer be used for new installations after June 21, 1995. (54 FR 

Recent Congressional Action

    As stated earlier, turbojet-powered aircraft had been excepted from 
the part 91 ELT requirement because such aircraft are normally flown 
under Instrument Flight Rules and are normally in radio contact 
throughout their flight with air traffic control (ATC); as a result, 
their location is generally known by ATC throughout their flight.
    However, Congress took action to remove this exception and require 
ELT equipment on turbojet-powered aircraft as a result of a missing 
``business jet'' type of turbojet-powered aircraft that crashed on 
approach to Lebanon Municipal Airport in New Hampshire in 1996. This 
aircraft, a Learjet 35A, which had been operating under instrument 
meteorological conditions but did not have an ELT, was not found until 
1999 (by a forester) approximately 17 nautical miles from the airport.
    On April 5, 2000, Congress passed H.R. 1000, the Wendell H. Ford 
Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21) (Pub. 
L. 106-181). Section 501 of this legislation set forth the following 
requirements: (1) It removed the current exception of turbojet-powered 
aircraft from the ELT requirement: (2) It limited the scope of the rule 
change by creating a new exception category for aircraft with a maximum 
payload capacity of more than 18,000 pounds when used in air 
transportation; (3) It required that the affected turbojet-powered 
aircraft be equipped with ELTs that transmit on the 121.5/243 megahertz 
frequency or the 406 megahertz frequency or with other equipment 
approved by the Secretary; and (4) It specified a compliance date for 
the new changes, of January 1, 2002, unless the Administrator grants 
operators up to 2 years after January 1, 2002, to equip affected 
turbojet-powered aircraft with ELT equipment.
    The removal of the exception for turbojet-powered aircraft in 
Sec. 91.207(f)(1) affects not only private business jets, such as the 
one lost after the 1996 accident in New Hampshire, but also any 
turbojet-powered aircraft that does not qualify for one of the other 
exceptions. Since current Sec. 91.207(f)(2) excepts scheduled 
operations by air carriers, the remaining operations that are affected 
are unscheduled operations conducted under parts 119, 121, and 135 with 
turbojet-powered aircraft, as well as turbojet-powered aircraft 
operated under part 91 or part 125. However, such operations conducted 
in large turbojet powered aircraft in air transportation are normally 
flown under IFR and are in radio contact with a flight-following or 
dispatch system or with ATC throughout the flight. For this reason 
Congress limited the scope of its action by adding an exception for 
aircraft with a maximum payload capacity of more than 18,000 pounds 
when used in air transportation. ``Air transportation'' is the carriage 
of persons or property as a common carrier for compensation or hire, 
i.e., operations conducted by air carriers. For purposes of this 
regulation, the definition of ``maximum payload capacity'' in 
Sec. 119.3 will be used.
    The provision in AIR-21 allowing the use of ELTs operating on 
either the 121.5/243 megahertz frequency or the 406 megahertz frequency 
is consistent with the types of ELTs that are currently approved by the 
FAA for installation on aircraft. However, the FAA strongly urges 
operators who are installing an ELT for the first time, in order to 
comply with this new requirement, to install an ELT that operates on 
the 406 megahertz frequency, even though this is the more costly 
option. There are two reasons to do this:
    1. In the final rule published on June 21, 1994 (59 FR 32050), the 
FAA recommended the use of the 406 MHz ELT, stating that the higher 
frequency ELT provides an enhancement and more life-saving benefits, 
especially for operations conducted over water and in remote areas. 
Commenters to the NPRM on which the 1994 final rule was based argued 
that the 406 MHz ELT has significant technical improvements over the 
121.5/243 MHz ELT and that it is compatible with the Search and Rescue 
Satellite-Aided Tracking System (COSPAS-SARSAT). Commenters further 
argued that COSPAS/SARSAT has proven to be an effective tool in 
detecting and locating both maritime and aeronautical distress 
incidents, that the satellite system had been credited with saving more 
than 1,700 lives, and that, in many of these cases, the satellite 
system was the only means of detecting the distress signal.
    In addition, not only does the 406 MHz ELT transmit a stronger 
signal that can be detected almost instantaneously by geostationary 
satellites, the 406 MHz ELT signal can be coded with the owner's 
identification or aircraft coding. This coding permits Search and 
Rescue Coordination Centers to contact the registered owner or operator 
and verify if the aircraft is flying or safely tied down or in a 
hangar. This permits a rapid SAR response or allows the owner or 
operator to deactivate a 406 MHz ELT that is inadvertently 
transmitting. This valuable feature permits a very rapid SAR response 
in the event of a real accident, and it saves valuable SAR resources in 
the event of an inadvertent 406 MHz ELT activation. In addition to its 
many other benefits, newer 406 MHz ELTs are being designed with the 
capability to transmit an aircraft's last known position. This 
capability further reduces the 406 MHz's already small search area.
    The current 121.5 MHz ELT is lower-powered, does not transmit any 
owner or aircraft coding, and its signal does not produce as small a 
search area as a 406 MHz ELT. In addition, United States SAR 
organizations do not respond as quickly to a 121.5 MHz ELT alert as 
they do to a 406 MHz alert. The reason is the large number of 121.5 MHz 
ELT false alerts. Because of the large number of 121.5 MHz ELT false 
alerts, the common practice is to wait for either a confirmation of an 
alert by additional satellite passes or through confirmation of an 
overdue aircraft or similar notification.
    2. In the year 2009, the international COSPAS-SARSAT satellite 
system will no longer provide satellite-based monitoring of the 121.5/
243 MHz frequency. After the date of the satellite termination, in 
2009, 121.5 MHz signals transmitted from ELTs operating on the lower 
frequency will only be detected by ground-based receivers such as local

[[Page 81318]]

airport facilities or air traffic control facilities or by overflying 
    Because of the many safety benefits of installing ELTss operating 
on the 406 MHz frequency, and the pending termination of the satellite-
based monitoring of the 121.5/243 MHz frequency, the Administrator has 
decided to extend the compliance period for this new ELT requirement to 
January 1, 2004, as allowed under AIR-21, to permit those owners or 
operators who want to install the more effective 406 MHz ELT time to do 
so. This extra time will ensure that manufacturers can provide an 
adequate supply of the higher frequency 406 MHz ELTs, which in turn may 
lower the cost for operators required to purchase and install an ELT 
under this final rule.

Waiver Under the Administrative Procedure Act

    Under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) (5 U.S.C. 553(b)), an 
agency may waive the normal notice and comment requirements if it 
finds, for good cause, that they are impracticable, unnecessary, or 
contrary to the public interest. Since AIR-21 mandated the changes to 
the ELT requirements and directed the FAA to issue a final rule by 
January 1, 2001, the FAA has determined that it has good cause to waive 
prior notice and comment and to make this final rule effective in less 
than 30 days after publication.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3507 (d)) requires 
that the FAA consider the impact of paperwork and other information 
collection burdens imposed on the public. The FAA has determined that 
there are no new information collection requirements associated with 
this rule.

Regulatory Evaluation Summary

    Changes to Federal regulations must undergo several economic 
analyses. First, Executive Order 12866 directs that each Federal agency 
must propose or adopt a regulation only upon a reasoned determination 
that the benefits of the intended regulation justify its costs. Second, 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 requires agencies to analyze the 
economic effect of regulatory changes on small entities. Third, OMB 
directs agencies to assess the effect of regulatory changes on 
international trade. Fourth, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 
requires agencies to prepare a written assessment of the costs, 
benefits and other effects of proposed or final rules that include a 
Federal mandate likely to result in the expenditure by State, local or 
tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100 
million or more annually (adjusted for inflation).
    Since this rule carries forth the direction and scope of the law, 
the cost and the benefit are attributed to the law and not to this 
implementing rule. Thus, in conducting these analyses, the FAA has 
determined that this rule is not ``a significant regulatory action'' 
under section 3(f) of Executive order 12866 and, therefore, is not 
subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget. The rule is 
not considered significant under the regulatory policies and procedures 
of the Department of Transportation (44 FR 11034, February 26, 1979). 
For the reason given above, this rule will not have a significant 
impact on a substantial number of small entities, will not constitute a 
barrier to international trade, and does not impose an unfunded mandate 
on state, local, or tribal governments, or on the private sector.
    The cost and the benefit of this rule are attributed to Section 501 
of this legislation which set forth the following requirements: (1) It 
removed the current exemption of turbojet-powered aircraft from the ELT 
requirement; and (2) It required that these turbo-powered aircraft be 
equipped with ELT's that transmit on the 121.5/243 megahertz frequency 
or the 406 megahertz frequency or with other equipment approved by the 
Secretary. This rule does not exceed the direction and scope of the law 
as just described.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Determination

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA) establishes ``as a 
principle of regulatory issuance that agencies must endeavor, 
consistent with the objective of the rule and of applicable statutes, 
to fit regulatory and informational requirements to the scale of the 
business, organizations, and governmental jurisdictions subject to 
regulation.'' To achieve that principle, the Act requires agencies to 
solicit and consider flexible regulatory proposals and to explain the 
rationale for their actions. The Act covers a wide-range of small 
entities, including small businesses, not-for-profit organizations and 
small governmental jurisdictions.
    Agencies must perform a review to determine whether a proposed or 
final rule will have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities. If the determination is that it will, the 
agency must prepare a regulatory flexibility analysis as described in 
the Act.
    However, if an agency determines that a final rule is not expected 
to have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities, section 605(b) of the 1980 act provides that the head of the 
agency may so certify and an regulatory flexibility analysis is not 
required. The certification must include a statement providing the 
factual basis for this determination, and the reasoning should be 
    This rule carries forth the direction and scope of section 501 of 
the Wendall H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act. The cost and 
the benefit are attributed to the law and not to this implementing 
rule. Consequently, the FAA certifies that this rule will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

International Trade Impact Statement

    The Trade Agreement Act of 1979 prohibits Federal agencies from 
engaging in any standards or related activities that create unnecessary 
obstacles to the foreign commerce of the United States. Legitimate 
domestic objectives, such as safety, are not considered unnecessary 
obstacles. The statute also requires consideration of international 
standards and where appropriate, that they be the basis for U.S. 
standards. In addition, consistent with the Administration's belief in 
the general superiority and desirability of free trade, it is the 
policy of the Administration to remove or diminish to the extent 
feasible, barriers to international trade, including both barriers 
affecting the export of American goods and services to foreign 
countries and barriers affecting the import of foreign goods and 
services into the United States.
    In accordance with the above statute and policy, the FAA has 
assessed the potential effect of this final rule and has determined 
that it will impose the same costs on domestic and international 
entities and thus has a neutral trade impact.

Federalism Implications

    The regulations herein will not have substantial direct effects on 
the States, on the relationship between the national government and the 
States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the 
various levels of government. Therefore, in accordance with Executive 
Order 13132, the FAA has determined that this rule will not have 
sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a 
federlism assessment.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (the Act), 

[[Page 81319]]

as 2 U.S.C. 1501-1571, requires each Federal agency, to the extent 
permitted by law, to prepare a written assessment of the effects of any 
Federal mandate in a proposed or final agency rule that may result in 
the expenditure by State, local, and tribal governments, in the 
aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100 million or more (adjusted 
annually for inflation) in any one year. Section 204(a) of the Act, 2 
U.S.C. 1534(a), requires the Federal agency to develop an effective 
process to permit timely input by elected officers (or their designees) 
of State, local, and tribal governments on a proposed ``significant 
intergovernmental mandate.'' A ``significant intergovernmental 
mandate'' under the Act is any provision in a Federal agency regulation 
that would impose an enforceable duty upon State, local, and tribal 
governments, in the aggregate, of $100 million (adjusted annually for 
inflation) in any one year. Section 203 of the Act, 2 U.S.C. 1533, 
which supplements section 204(a), provides that before establishing any 
regulatory requirements that might significantly or uniquely affect 
small governments, the agency must have developed a plan that, among 
other things, provides for notice to potentially affected small 
governments, if any, and for a meaningful and timely opportunity to 
provide input in the development of regulatory proposals.
    The FAA has determined that this rule does not contain a Federal 
intergovernmental or private sector mandate that exceeds $100 million 
in any one year.

Environmental Analysis

    FAA Order 1050.1D defines FAA actions that may be categorically 
excluded from preparation of a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 
environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. In 
accordance with FAA Order 1050.1D, appendix 4, paragraph 4(j), 
regulations, standards, and exceptions (excluding those that, if 
implemented, may cause a significant impact on the human environment) 
qualify for a categorical exclusion. The FAA has determined that this 
rule qualifies for a categorical exclusion because no significant 
impacts to the environment are expected to result from its 

List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 91

    Air traffic control, Aircraft, Aviation safety, Safety.

The Amendment

    For the reasons set forth above, the Federal Aviation 
Administration amends 14 CFR part 91 as follows:


    1. The authority citation for part 91 continues to read as follows:

    Authority 49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40103, 40113, 40120, 44101, 44111, 
44701, 44709, 44711, 44712, 44715, 44716, 44717, 44722, 46306, 
46315, 46316, 46502, 46504, 46506-46507, 47122, 47508, 47528-47531.

    2. Amend Sec. 91.207 as follows:
    a. By revising paragraphs (f) introductory text, and (f)(1);
    b. Removing ``; and'' from the end of paragraph (f)(9) and adding a 
    c. Removing at the end of paragraph (f)(10)(ii) and adding ``; 
and''; and
    d. Adding paragraph (f)(11). The revisions and addition read as 

Sec. 91.207  Emergency locator transmitters.

* * * * *
    (f) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to--
    (1) Before January 1, 2004, turbo-powered aircraft;
* * * * *
    (11) On and after January 1, 2004, aircraft with a maximum payload 
capacity of more than 18,000 pounds when used in air transportation.

    Issued in Washington, DC on December 15, 2000.
Jane F. Garvey,
[FR Doc. 00-32511 Filed 12-21-00; 8:45 am]