Effective January 1, 2004, FAR 91.207 requires that an aircraft operating under FAR Parts 121, 125 and 135 have an automatic emergency locator transmitter (ELT) installed. In addition to a number of very specific exceptions to the rule exist (e.g. training flights; operations incident to design, testing, manufacture or delivery), one exception allows an operator to continue to operate their aircraft for a period up to 90 days following removal of a transmitter for inspection, repair, modification or replacement.
Some operators (the one’s aircraft that do not have an ELT installed) are complaining that this provides a loophole within which an operator may continue to operate an aircraft with a non-compliant ELT installed for an additional 90 days, while an aircraft that never had an ELT installed is grounded until a compliant ELT is installed. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that the ELT manufacturers are behind in supplying compliant ELT’s and avionics shops are booked.
Several operators have applied for an exemption from the ELT requirement arguing that they have exercised good faith in ordering a compliant ELT well before the January 1, 2004 effective date. Unfortunately, the FAA is refusing to grant any exemptions to the ELT requirement. Thus, until the supply is able to catch up with the demand, you will see a number of aircraft grounded with a resulting loss of revenue for the owners/operators of the grounded aircraft.