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Recommendations Issued in Wake of Stevens Crash
January 12, 2011
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  • By Andy Pasztor

    January 5, 2011

    Federal air-safety investigators, issuing recommendations stemming from the single-engine plane crash that killed former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens last year, have urged detailed annual inspections of emergency transmitters on all general aviation aircraft.

    The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday called on federal regulators to ensure that such radio transmitters – designed to pinpoint a plane’s position in the event of an accident – are properly installed on thousands of private aircraft to withstand the impact of a crash. The emergency signals are intended to help other aircraft or rescuers quickly identify crash locations using widely used satellite positioning technology.

    The recommendations come five months after the much-publicized floatplane crash in the Alaskan wilderness killed the pilot, the former Republican lawmaker and three others who were part of the fishing party, and seriously injured four others. The accident, which occurred in poor visibility, stranded the survivors for nearly five hours in steep, heavily wooded terrain before volunteers spotted the wreckage from the air.

    None of the search teams detected a signal from the crash site, and board investigators later determined the emergency-locator device had torn loose from its fittings and wasn’t attached to the antenna. “This vital life-saving technology won’t do anyone any good if it doesn’t stay connected to the antenna,” according to Deborah Hersman, the board’s chairman.

    Investigators said the transmitter, installed in March 2008, was supposed to be inspected annually but “specific references” to the condition or position of the device “were not included in the [plane’s maintenance] records nor were they required” to be specifically spelled out. Since many emergency devices use similar mounting techniques, the board wants the Federal Aviation Administration to mandate specific inspections for existing systems and to evaluate whether tighter safety requirements are warranted for the future.

    FAA officials weren’t immediately available for comment.

    Date: 2011-01-05