Aug. 4, 2015

The FAA recently issued a technical standard order (TSO) discontinuing production of acoustic, self-powered underwater locator beacons (ULB) with 30-day batteries installed, in favor of devices with batteries meeting a minimum performance standard of 90 days. The longer-life batteries provide additional time for search crews and accident investigators to find cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder devices after an accident.

As of Dec. 1, all newly certified ULBs must have batteries that meet the 90-day performance standard. The order also requires operators flying aircraft with 30-day ULB batteries installed to upgrade to the higher standard as those batteries expire, or are no longer serviceable.

“We’ve seen several recent cases where the 30-day battery life is insufficient to provide emergency and rescue services, and to identify the location of wreckage,” said Mark Larsen, NBAA senior manager for safety and flight operations.

Review the FAA’s TSO on underwater locator beacons.

Should a ULB have a battery replacement date set to expire before the TSO’s implementation date, the operator has the option to replace it with another 30-day battery, and then upgrade to the 90-day standard once that battery expires or is no longer serviceable.

However, Larsen encouraged operators to upgrade their batteries to the 90-day standard as soon as feasible. “Even at the international level, there’s a push to update ULB batteries to a longer capability than we have today,” he added.

ULB batteries may be operator serviceable, with straightforward maintenance required to swap in the higher-capacity batteries. Other ULBs are sealed units that require them to be sent to the ULB manufacturer to have the batteries replaced. NBAA recommends that operators consult and comply with the appropriate documentation to determine the service intervals and servicing instructions for the ULB(s) on their aircraft.