This page is registered with Civil Air Patrol, New York City Group and is hosted by Malcolm Dickinson

Mission 01M0199    3 Feb 2001

What follows are the mission diaries of a recent nondistress ELT mission in the New York City area. This pretty typical CAP mission - over 90% of ELT signals turn out to be nondistress.

An ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) is a small radio beacon that is carried aboard an aircraft and broadcasts on one of three frequencies reserved for emergency beacons. The beacons that broadcast on these frequencies fall into three general categories:  Private and commercial aircraft ELTs, military aircraft ELTs, and boat beacons (known as EPIRBs).

Since New York City is an area with hundreds of pleasure boats, ferries, and other water vessels, many of the ELT missions assigned to CAP's New York City Group turn out to be EPIRBs.

In the diaries below, all times are given in local (Eastern Standard) time.


The mission began when American and Russian weather satellites picked up a signal being broadcast from the NYC area on the emergency frequency of 121.5 mHz.

The satellite data was relayed to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) in Langley, Virginia.

Time    AFRCC determined that the signal was ongoing and located in New York State. They notified Lt Col Duane Hinkel, the alerting officer of Civil Air Patrol's New York Wing.

Time    Lt Col Hinkel contacted several qualified Mission Coordinators in the area who were unavailable. As volunteers, Civil Air Patrol members have other responsibilities (such as jobs!) which sometimes prevent them from being able to assist on missions.

0153    Lt Col Hinkel contacted Capt Tim Holteen, a mission coordinator, and Capt Holteen accepted the mission.

0206    The alerting officer contacted the Group Emergency Services officer for the relevant group - George Kelen of New York City Group.

 mission coordinator found ground team members and aircrew to "prosecute the mission" (find and turn off the emergency beacon).

Ground Team Notes
by Capt George Kelen, CAP

0206   Activated by Duane Hinkel.  He provides mission number and says it is a 121.5 mHz signal in the vicinity of JFK.

0211    Call Tim Holteen, MC.  Multiple satellite hits in close proximity improve the odds of acquiring the signal from the ground, so in view of anticipated shortage of aircrew, agree to try on the ground first.

0226    Attempt to reach Luis Ramos on his cell phone - unsuccessful.

0227    Call Wai Lee – he will proceed to JFK.  He has a VHF radio and a cell phone.

0249    Pack car, set up radios and laptop GPS moving map, plot coordinates.

0255    Depart home (Staten Island) for JFK. Call MC with odometer reading.

0328    On Cross Bay Blvd, at site of 2nd Satellite cluster – no signal heard thus far.  Buy gas. Report to MC.  Discuss weather – no stars visible.

0344    Cell call from Wai Lee – he is a mile north east, will rendezvous at Farmer’s Blvd and Belt Pkwy (site of other Sat hit).

0355    Radio contact with Wai Lee on channel 1

0407    Meet Wai Lee – no signal at Farmer’s Blvd, and none heard on drive in from central Queens.  Wai heads off to the Rockaways via Rockaway Blvd, east of JFK while I go back down Cross Bay Blvd on the west side of JFK to rendezvous near Peninsula Hospital.

0422 Rejoin Wai Lee - no signal heard.  Report to MC, agree to scour JFK terminal and cargo areas.  Head back to JFK.

0446    Suggest possible aircrew candidates to Tin Holteen. Decision to launch aircraft made.

0450    Receive cell call from Luis Ramos. He is on North Conduit Ave at JFK. Ask him to commence search of JFK terminal and cargo areas.

0515    Speak to Malcolm Dickinson and give him some names and phone numbers of potential aircrew candidates.

0535    Meet Wai Lee and Luis Ramos (around the corner buying coffee) at Ramada Parking Lot – no signal heard by anyone thus far.  Report to MC. Decide to split up and proceed north on separate parallel tracks to meet up at LGA.

0603    Passing LGA on Grand Central Parkway, no signal heard.  Proceeding towards Maspeth to site of earliest Satellite merges.

0638    Speak to Malcolm Dickinson, who advises that Tom Szekely is available, hopes to launch from TEB around 0800L, will call before takeoff.

0650    Meet Lee and Ramos at 96th Street across from LGA terminals – no signal heard by anyone.  Off to McDonald’s around the corner for breakfast.

0720    Recline seat, fall asleep in car with radio volume turned up, cell phone clipped to ear.

0903    Call from Malcolm Dickinson at TEB – departing shortly.

0930    Commence calling aircraft on VHF from Golden Arches parking lot.

1012    CAPFLIGHT 3135 advises departure from TEB at 1000L, currently over Throgs Neck Bridge, cleared towards Kennedy with growing ELT signal.  Excellent readability of aircraft comms.

1015    Depart in convoy with Lee and Ramos towards the Van Wyck Expressway and JFK.

1020    Aircraft advises strong ELT signal, provisional heading now towards Belmont Racetrack.  We continue down the Van Wyck.

1025    Aircrew reports probable ELT location near intersection of Southern State Pkwy and Laurelton Pkwy.

1041    On Belt Parkway heading east, approaching Southern State Pkwy.  Faint ELT signal – roof mag-mount antenna, 121.5 MHz.  Confirm audibility with Wai Lee.  Aircraft reports ELT probably near  N40 41.5  W73 42.9

1046    Exit Southern State Pkwy at Elmont Road, signal now strong with roof antenna, barely audible at 121.55 mHz.  Drive around a few small adjacent blocks on south side of Southern State Pkwy, no real increase in signal strength in any direction.

1048    Cross Southern State Pkwy on Elmont Road heading north, signal immediately strengthens, audible with rubber ducky at 121.6Mhz. Advise Lee and Ramos.

1055    Aircraft advises ELT pinpointed to intersection of Elmont Road and Linden Blvd.  Proceed to location.

1059L    Parked on Linden Blvd just east of Elmont Road.  Signal is audible here at 121.7 mHz with rubber ducky.  Informed aircrew that we are within a block or two and their help is not needed from here in. Aircraft departs for TEB

1102    Joined by Lee and Ramos.  We split up on foot, exploring the NE block, on the corner of which the signal is audible with no antenna on 121.5Mhz.

1110    Outside an Auto Parts store on the north side of Linden Blvd, 3 buildings east of Elmont Road, the signal is audible on 121.8Mhz with no antenna.

1112    The friendly store manager points to a small red EPIRB sitting on a file cabinet in the back room with the top light blinking..  He had brought the unit in to the store to get the battery (expiration 1996) changed thinking the unit was completely dead.

1115    As the store manager picks up the unit he moves the top switch to “off”, and radio silence reigns.

1124    Lee and Ramos report the find and personnel details to MC and we sleepily depart for our nests.

Aircrew Notes
by Maj Malcolm Dickinson, CAP

0500 - Received the call from Tim Holteen at O-Dark-Hundred.  Sure, I'd be happy to fly and search for an ELT!  The ground team has been out for a while, snooping around JFK, but doesn't have enough signal to DF.  They are heading to LaGuardia to see if it's on the airport there.

Tim gives me the satellite hits, which I enter into DeLorme Street Atlas USA (see map below).

0520 - Got the phone numbers of all the observers and scanners (qualified and trainees) in the group.  Unfortunately, none were available...

0545 - started on the other pilots and trainees. Talked to the ground team. They are holed up in a diner awaiting air support.

0615 - started trying observers in nearby groups...

0630 - Heard back from Lt Tom Szekely, a pilot trainee - he can do it. We have an aircrew!  Inform ground team.

0700 - Headsets, sunglasses, flight suit, flight jacket, warm hat, gloves, fingerless gloves, gridded NY chart, gridded terminal area chart, helicopter route chart, DeLorme NY Atlas, Hagstrom NYC Atlas, anti-motion sickness wristband, flashlight, kneeboard, water bottle, barf bags - check.

0730 - on the road to Teterboro

0900 - Plane is preflighted. Mission planning, review of frequencies we'll need, etc. Received flight release from MC, contacted ground team.

0951 - Engine start

1000 - Takeoff. We flew from Teterboro across Central Park, over the north tip of Roosevelt Island, directly overhead LaGuardia, and thence to the Throgs Neck Bridge.

c.1012 - Received clearance to fly south into JFK Tower's airspace. Signal heard and growing louder.  Reported this to ground team. They are leaving the diner and heading south.

c.1018 - Received clearance to fly directly overhead JFK.  Signal is weaker.  two 90-degree turns show us that the beacon is somewhere north-northwest of us.  Kennedy tower gives permission for us to fly in that direction.  Luckily for us, they are not using their southwest-northeast runways this morning!  I take out my digital camera and snap a few pictures.

In the area. N61820 being flown by 2d Lt Tom Szekely, CAP - Mission Pilot Trainee.

c. 1025 - Located area of strong signal near the intersection of the Southern State Parkway and the Laurelton Parkway. Reported this to ground team. Their ETA in the area is 20 minutes.

View from the observer's window. The intersection of Laurelton Parkway (right), Cross Island Parkway (left), and Southern State Parkway (away). Looking northeast.

c. 1035 - We are criss-crossing the area, punching the GPS to save coordinates at the peak loudness each time. Best saved spot seems to be N40 41.5, W73 42.9.

c. 1045 - With continued straight line fly-overs, we feel the ELT is at, or perhaps just southwest of, the corner of Linden Boulevard and Elmont Road.

Over the highway junction

1048 - The ground team is in the area and they hear the signal. We stay overhead to assist.

1059 - The ground team reports a loud signal - they feel they are within a block.  

As there's nothing further that the aircrew can do, we contact JFK tower and request routing back to Teterboro. They have us fly overhead JFK tower, then turn west direct the Statue of Liberty.  We pass overhead Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn's own Arch de Triomphe. (Didn't get a picture...)

1115 - Ground team shuts off EPIRB. The location was a store in Elmont, NY.

The intersection of Linden and Elmont

1119 - Aircrew lands at Teterboro, runway 24. Wind 310 at 10 knots - a 70 degree crosswind.

1122 - Shutdown. Total engine time: 1.5 hours.

1200 - We finish filling out the 104 and 108 and reported in to the MC. He tells us the ground team has shut off the EPIRB and congratulates us on the "find." Time to head for home - I am ready for a nap!

Afternoon - the pilot faxed the 104 and 108 forms to the MC for inclusion in his mission paperwork package.  The 108 will be submitted to Wing HQ so that the wing to request reimbursement from USAF for its aircraft expense.

Thanks to all who assisted with this mission. Alphabetically:
Lt Col Duane Hinkel, NY Wing Alerting Officer
Capt Tim Holteen, Mission Coordinator
Capt George Kelen, Ground Team Leader
Capt Wai Lee, Ground Team Member
1st Lt Luis Ramos, Ground Team Member
2d Lt Tom Szekely, Mission Pilot Trainee  (first "find" - congratulations!)


Maj Malcolm Dickinson (Observer/Mission Pilot Trainer)


2d Lt Szekely                                                                Maj Dickinson