Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Staying Safe


A guide to gadgets that will keep you and your passengers secure


staying safeRemember when CB radios were actually useful? Like CBs and just about everything originally intended for emergency purposes, many of the safety items listed in this article are for situations of distress, where life, eyesight or organ health is in danger. Let’s all be careful and professional when using PLBs (personal locator beacons) and ELTs (emergency locator transmitters).
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Remember when CB radios were actually useful?

Like CBs and just about everything originally intended for emergency purposes, many of the safety items listed in this article are for situations of distress, where life, eyesight or organ health is in danger. Let’s all be careful and professional when using PLBs (personal locator beacons) and ELTs (emergency locator transmitters).

On February 1, 2009, the international COSPAS-SARSAT program will terminate satellite processing of signals from 121.5/243 MHz ELTs. If you want full satellite-monitoring benefit, you’ll need to use an ELT (or PLB) that transmits on 406 MHz; the 121.5 units we’re all used to will still work, but the satellites will no longer be listening, so you’ll need to have line-of-sight to your rescuers if you’re using old-tech 121.5 alone. It’s a good idea, right now, to retrofit 406 MHz ELTs or at least carry a 406 MHz PLB.

staying safeACR Electronics MicrOFix
The new MicrOFix from ACR Electronics is a 10-ounce, one-button-activation PLB that’s ideal for hikers, explorers and, naturally, pilots. With a clip mount to fit on your flight vest, it features built-in 12-channel GPS and 406 MHz satellite transmission, plus a 121.5 MHz locator signal for line-of-sight rescue. If your airplane still has a 121.5 ELT and you’re not ready to upgrade to 406 MHz (or if you’re a renter), this five-watt, waterproof device may be the transition piece you’re looking for. The long-lasting battery (up to 40 hours nominal, and eight hours at minus-40 degrees F) makes this cell-phone-sized gadget indispensable if you’re on any risky adventure, from an emergency call-out in a mountain blizzard to a flight across the Sahara. The antenna wraps conveniently around the unit when not deployed, and its manual activation means that you won’t be “rescued” when you merely make a bad landing. Look for a street price around $650.
For more information, contact: ACR Electronics Inc., (800) 432-0227, www.acrelectronics.com.

staying safeAmSafe Aviation Inflatable Restraint
In service since 2001, the AmSafe Aviation Inflatable Restraint system has, to date, been installed on nearly 80% of new GA aircraft (it’s also available for retrofit on several models). Weighing just over two pounds, the system protects in a way that’s similar to your car’s air bag, but with significant differences in the way it’s built and how it operates. For instance, it’s stored in the lap (or shoulder) portion of the seat belt; it’s powered by compressed helium gas (rather than an explosive charge, as in your car, so it deploys cool rather than hot); and its high-pressure canister has a safety circuit that releases its pressure in the event of a nondeployment accident that results in a fire—so it’s safer for both survivors and rescuers. Of course, it expands up and away from—instead of into—the subject. Within 10 seconds of deployment, the AmSafe device deflates, so it won’t get in the way of someone who’s exiting the aircraft. The G-sensor is designed to prevent accidental discharge (such as in transit, during a poor landing or when being hit by a beverage cart). AmSafe and the FAA continue to conduct extensive research in the lab—see technical papers on the AmSafe Website.
For more information, contact: AmSafe, (602) 850-2850, www.amsafe.com.




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