I was stunned by the swiftness of the response of the ELT
|Product Name||ME406 ELT|
|Date of Rescue||06/29/2015|
|Saved By||MESQUITE FIRE & RESCUE NTSB REPORT ON FILE SEGOVILLE, TX (ZODIAC 601B-N253DG)|
|Beacon Purchased From||AVIONICS UNLIMITED, CONROE, TEXAS|
The last flight of N253DG occurred on June 29, 2015. N253DG was a Zenith 601-B kit built aircraft that I built over a period of 8 years and the first flight occurred on July 19, 2012. FAA regulations required the installation of an ELT and I installed an ARTEX ME406.
On the morning of June 29, 2015 my wife and I were planning a quick trip form our home north of Houston to Dallas to participate in a home inspection for a home our son was planning to buy. Our initial plans were to drive, but it was a lovely Monday morning and we made a last minute decision to take our airplane.
During the past three years of flying the aircraft around the United States, our flight planning routine had been to call our daughter and notify her of our departure and then notify her when we arrived at our destination. Our daughter, Angela, was employed in a position that required her to be always available on her cell phone.
During our haste to change our plans from driving to flying, both my wife and I forgot to make the call. This put us in a position of being in the air with no one being aware of our departure or planned arrival. Our son was expecting us to arrive in Dallas by car.
The planned flight of 1 hour and 30 minutes was uneventful for the first 1 hour and 15 minutes. About 15 miles south of our destination of Mesquite, Texas the oil temperature started to climb and continued to climb to temperatures far in excess of acceptable operating limitations. This was followed by intermittent loss of power.
At 10 miles out I contacted Mesquite tower, declared an emergency, and stated we may be unable to make the airport. Around two minutes later I realized we were going to leave the open farm land we had been flying over for trees and urban housing as we covered the last 5 miles to KHQZ, Mesquite Metro Airport. This was a risk I was unwilling to take so I advised Mesquite tower we were taking the field below us. As soon as I released the push to talk button, the engine died; we were now a glider.
As I made my turn to the open field I had selected for my landing, I realized there were power lines that had not been visible before the turn. This forced me to take a field in front of the power lines. This field was much rougher and heavily overgrown. The forced landing was rough and the nose-gear collapsed but as the aircraft came to a stop we were safe and uninjured. We exited the aircraft and stood by the damaged plane. Except for the buzzing of the insects, there was total silence standing in the high weeds. Then my cell phone rang.
I looked at the phone and realized it was my daughter calling. I took a deep breath so I would not alarm her with the fact that her mother and I were standing in a remote, overgrown field south of Dallas next to our wrecked airplane.
The telephone call went something like this: “Hi Angela. Hi Dad, are you busy right now? Not too busy, what do you need? Well I need you to go to the airport. I just received a call telling me your ELT has been activated. You need to go to the airport and turn it off. I will call the ELT notification number and let them know it is a false alarm and that you are on your way to turn it off.” I advised my daughter it was not a false alarm; but we were safe and emergency response units were starting to arrive on the scene.
I was stunned by the swiftness of the response of the ELT. In the time that it had taken us to gather our wits and exit the damaged aircraft, about 5 minutes, a signal had been sent, received and the contact call had been made by the response center. The little yellow box that had been put in the back of the airplane 3 years ago and ignored as we flew around the US had done its job at a level of efficiency that far exceeded any of my expectations.
I believe I am like 99% of all pilots. I installed an ELT because regulations required me to have one; but I never expected to ever be in a situation where it would ever be activated. In the three years that I flew my aircraft it traveled over the open deserts of the Southwest, most of New Mexico, the mountains of Southern Colorado and the swamps of Louisiana. All of this time I took for granted that the little box in the back of the plane was hidden away waiting to send a signal if anything unexpected brought the plane down. I will no longer look at an ELT as a regulatory requirement. It is now part of my safety routine. Thank you for delivering such a reliable product that is so often just ignored as it is out of sight and out of mind.