Saved by a GPS device and a satellite

In case you have not seen the February 2010 issue of AOPA Pilot magazine, there is a great article in it about the rescue of a pilot and a flight instructor who luckily for them, both had GPS devices capable of sending emergency signals. The incident involved a Cessna 206 that had crashed among tall pine trees shortly after take-off from a remote back country airstrip in Idaho – leaving the plane owner with minor injuries and the flight instructor with more serious ones.

And while the aircraft was equipped with a 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitter (ELT), there was no longer any satellite monitoring of the transmitter’s frequencies while the downed aircraft’s location was in an area where few planes flew over. Hence, the transmitter would only be useful if rescue crews knew the plane was lost and had a general idea of where to start looking.

Luckily, both on board had SPOT 1 GPS devices and they immediately activated the emergency distress buttons which alerted a dispatch center. The dispatch center then contacted the pair’s designated emergency contacts and confirmed the location of the crash. All told, it only took about 20 minutes to dispatch a rescue team to the site – no doubt saving the lives of both crash victims.

In addition, the article mentioned another incident worth noting where a pilot had the same device but had attached it to the aircraft’s glareshield with Velcro. Unfortunately, the force of a crash caused the device to fly into a cluster of poison oak and it took an hour for the seriously injured pilot to retrieve it. Lesson learned: Ensure that emergency devices are secured to you and NOT your aircraft.


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