FCC, FAA Investigate Interference to 121.5 MHz for Emergencies
Tuesday, August 08, 2017 | Comments

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has been investigating instances of misuse of, and harmful interference to, frequency 121.5 MHz, which the FCC set aside for emergency and distress communications.

The FCC regulates aviation communications in cooperation with the FAA, which among other things, continuously monitors distress frequencies to protect life and property.

The FAA reported to the FCC that the FAA’s ability to monitor aviation channel 121.5 MHz for actual emergencies is being impaired by an increase in the use of 121.5 MHz for nonemergency communications.

Aircraft operating domestically are authorized to operate VHF aviation radios, radar and emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) without having to obtain individual licenses from the FCC, while aircraft operating internationally must hold a license issued by the FCC. In both cases, however, airmen must follow the operating procedures specified in Part 87 of the FCC’s rules. Of particular importance, Section 87.173 of the FCC’s rules mandates that 121.5 MHz be used solely for emergency and distress purposes.

Prohibited communications on 121.5 MHz include false distress or emergency messages; superfluous communications; messages containing obscene, indecent, or profane words or meaning; general calls not addressed to a particular station; routine messages; radio tests; and transmission of recorded audio such as music. Misuse of 121.5 MHz can distract FAA personnel monitoring the channel from hearing transmissions related to actual emergencies and, as a result, poses a threat to life and property.

Violators may be subject to the penalties authorized by the Communications Act, including, but not limited to, substantial monetary fines — up to $19,246 per single violation and up to $144,344 for an ongoing violation — an in rem action to seize the offending radio equipment and criminal sanctions.

More information is here.

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