Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fossett - Where Was His EPRIB?

Far more than the "mystery" surrounding Fossett's death, there's a question that bugs me - what happened to his EPIRB?  I'm not sure of the aviation law regarding EPIRBs on aircraft in the States, but I believe it's a requirement under the Law here to have an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on aircraft, and they want to make the same thing law for watercraft at some point, too.

Thing is, an EPIRB is made to be pretty much indestructible.  It transmits a signal on a specific VHF frequency, can transmit continuously for days, and it's pretty hard for it not to be noticed because every aircraft checks the frequency, satellites monitor it, and groundstations have dedicated receivers on that frequency.  That's the beauty of an ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter, another name for an EPIRB) onboard.  It's a very very very rare occasion that they fail to operate, and when they do, it's generally not long before someone's at the scene.

I can understand how a crash can occur in rugged country, given a puff of cloud or a laspe of attention.  Clouds in particular are dangerous when close to terrain.  Many pilots are familiar with the joking term "cumulus granitus" meaning a cloud with a montain enshrouded inside it.  It doesn't have to be a large cloud, they are surprisingly dense when you're in them, and amazingly large compared to how you perceive them from the ground.

I'll look forward to reading why the owner of the plane, one of the richest men in the world, couldn't afford to put a life saving device in an aircraft he loaned to someone else to trust their life to.

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