Murkowski: Stevens Crash Prompts Senate to Tighten Inspections of Aircraft Emergency Locator Transmitters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Acting on a federal safety recommendation stemming from the airplane crash that claimed the life of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the Senate late Thursday approved a proposal to ensure that aircraft emergency locator transmitters (ELT) are properly mounted and maintained, according to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

During its inspection of the Stevens crash last summer, which also claimed the lives of pilot Theron “Terry” Smith, William “Bill” Phillips Sr., GCI executive Dana Tindall and her daughter Corey Tindall, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the plane’s ELT had become dislodged from its mounting tray and failed to transmit radio signals to alert rescue personnel. An ELT is activated automatically by crash forces then transmits radio signals containing the plane’s identification and location.

The NTSB recommended annual detailed inspections of all ELTs installed in general aviation aircraft to ensure that the transmitters are properly mounted and maintained.

Murkowski turned that recommendation into an amendment, which was accepted, to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. The legislation was approved late Thursday.

“This tragedy was compounded by the fact that the aircraft’s ELT had broken loose from its mounting tray and was incapable of sending out an emergency signal,” Murkowski said. “These transmissions are essential to the rapid location and rescue of passengers once an accident has occurred.” 

A House committee earlier this week advanced its own FAA reauthorization bill. Once that legislation clears the full House, congressional negotiators will meet to iron out differences in the two bills.