ELTs & The 2015 Paris Air Show: The Emerging Role of ELTs in Flight Safety and Aviation Search & Rescue

Last month, we at the McMurdo Group hosted an in-depth webinar on “The Future of Aviation Search and Rescue”. As Head of McMurdo Aviation and Military Business, I am constantly seeking to share and build upon my expertise in aviation emergency readiness and response strategy. That is why we are excited to be a part of the Paris Air Show happening this week June 15th-21st at the Le Bourget Parc de Expositions in Paris, France! Here, major players in the global aviation and aerospace industries are showcasing their integrated global aviation technology systems, fueling the growing momentum toward impactful aviation strategy and innovation.

We are particularly invested in the discussion surrounding the evolution of aviation emergency beacon technology and future search and rescue innovations toward the creation of a comprehensive and integrated global “aviation emergency system”. This concept deeply aligns with our own initiatives involving the next generation of Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) and their growing capabilities in maximizing search and rescue resource management, redundancy, reliability and real-time aviation emergency tracking and response.

ELTs are aviation distress beacons that are key elements of aviation search and rescue systems. Through the use of the Cospas-Sarsat satellite-based search and rescue system, ELTs were developed to find aircraft emergency locations in the event of a terrestrial crash. For more in-depth information about ELTs and the aviation search and rescue process you can view our webinar on demand at http://bit.ly/ELTWebinar. The ELT distress signal includes the identification of the aircraft, beacon identification information, and if available, GPS location positioning data. When I discuss ELTs with members of the aviation industry, their number one concern is that traditional ELTs rely on an aircraft’s external antenna and GPS equipment, which is subject to failure in the event of an emergency. In the event of a crash, the external antenna cables and links to the avionics systems are often damaged or disconnected resulting in no ELT communications.

Today, the new generation of more redundant and reliable ELTs such as McMurdo’s Kannad Integra ELT can operate independently of the aircraft, providing key positioning data via internal antennas and embedded GPS receivers. With this built-in GPS technology, acquisition redundancy of the location information is allowing for increased location accuracy and reliability that can result in aircraft being found much faster compared to standard ELTs. The solution has already been selected by major aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus, Pilatus, Embraer, Airbus Helicopters and other leading aircraft manufacturers.

At McMurdo, our vision of safety in the aviation industry extends far beyond ELTs.  It is our ultimate goal to be the industry’s visionary in helping to identify product and technology improvements, to streamline search and rescue processes and operations and to drive the convergence of these various solutions into a single, comprehensive system. As a result, we will continue to work closely with various global initiatives driven by the International Civil Aviation Organization, Airbus, Boeing, B.E.A. in France, the F.A.A., the European Aviation Safety Agency and many others to develop a Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) for future aircraft tracking and emergency alerting. This vision could include buoyant, deployable, ELT-enabled flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders; enhanced, high-bandwidth satellite communications; new monitoring and positioning software; and other emerging technologies.

At McMurdo, we are excited to be play a major role in defining and delivering innovation that will continue to help save lives in the aviation industry and beyond.