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Planes' Emergency Crash Beacons Need More Frequent Inspections, NTSB Says

An emergency beacon that came loose from its mounting and antenna may have cost former Sen. Ted Stevens and four other passengers their lives in a plane that crashed in rural Alaska in August 2010.

de Haviland Dash 3-TThe National Transportation Safety Board announced this finding on January 5, 2010. At the same time, the board recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration begin requiring two new inspections of emergency transmitter locators in all planes. The standard safety equipment sends a crashed aircraft's GPS coordinates to other planes, air traffic controllers and rescue personnel.

While the ELT in the plane carrying Stevens was switched on, its signal could not reach searchers because of the detachment from the antenna. This delayed searchers and rescuers, though four people did get found alive.

"This vital, life-saving technology won't do anyone any good if it doesn't stay connected to the antenna," the Los Angels Times quoted NTSB Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman as saying.

Finding plane crash victims as quickly as possible is essential, especially when the small craft used for general aviation are involved. Those airplanes almost always fly lower and slower than large commercial jets. Pilots and passengers in small planes survive an initial wreck much more often, but many of them die from their injuries before being rescued.

I am a pilot myself, so I support any all efforts to make flying and airplanes safer -- from limiting pilots' time in the cockpit to requiring regular and thorough inspections of all equipment. Too many plane crash involve tired pilots and broken or incorrectly installed parts. Preventing avoidable crashes needs to be everyone's top priority.

EJL
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