I am considering buying a Spot Gen 3 and having both myself and the wife wear it whilst crossing over water. For someone who does more over water than average, what do others think – sensible or over the top? The Spot Gen 3 is a wearable PLB – one that seems small enough to comfortable attach to your arm and forget about. There is something more intuitive wearing a device rather than carrying one.
My theory is that it should be reasonably easy for the the rescue services to collect two individual targets with real time tracking.
ps thanks Jan, just clarified the Spot 3 being a PLB.
What is a Spot Gen 3 ? Some kind of PLB device, perhaps? I should think there have been plenty of threads about those? Or is there anything special about this particular type?
[[ edit ]] Thanks for adding the link while I typed.
[[edit2]] After reading (somewhat diagonally) through the web page, it looks like a PLB with a bunch of optional services at undisclosed prices. No indication of certification, or I should have missed it. I can’t help smelling something fishy, but perhaps I am over-cautious.
From what I’ve learned in many courses on the subject, the key to sea survival is a dinghy. A life vest will keep you alive for not much more than an hour on average in northern waters. Much less in winter, and even if your PLB will lead the rescuers directly to your position it might already be too late. So personally, I would think about a PLB (any one will do, your wearable one is certainly a good option) after having bought a dinghy first.
Same for me. I wear a dry-suit, life jacket and have the Spot Messenger 3 attached to it :-). Then a life raft nearby. If we are going on a very long stretch over water, I will take along a marine radio as well and all ready in a bag attached to the life raft. The spot is nice, but I would go for the inreach device as you can then also send and receive messages.
In Canada, I almost always use a Spot, and they are very common (due to the vast areas of empty space); however, there are a few things to remember:
1) It is not an official PLB. It sends a GPS location signal to a satellite, which comes back to the earth based ‘Spot’ server. Your friends and family can then look at a web based browser to see where you are. Although you can pay for extra services (which might be useful in the USA), Spot is not tied to any of the rescue agencies. You can push the SOS button, and hope that SPOT calls the nearest rescue agency, but they are not contracted to do so, and have no obligation to follow up. (Also, do you really want them to dispatch services? What if it is a false alarm? Will you be liable for a $10k false rescue bill?).
2) In Canada, you can mention that you have a ‘Spot’ tracker in the remarks section of your flight plan; however, if you are ‘overdue’ and the flight plan has not been closed, the rescue agency will have to call your emergency contact ( friends and family ) to find the web page and then get your last known coordinates. Each jurisdiction handles emergency rescue dispatches for overdue flight plans differently, so you will have to know what is likely to happen where you fly.
3) You have to train your flight watcher (friends and family). It is not uncommon for one or two of the reporting points to ‘miss’ the upload. If you are flying over water and your family sees that a position update has not come in, what should they do? Should they wait for the next one (10 minutes?) Should they wait an hour? A day? I have received concerned calls from my family and friends families who think that a flyer might have perished.
4) You have to decide how to signal your arrival or safe landing message. I once pushed the button to send my ‘Ok’ message, but then turned the unit ‘off’ before the message sent…. what should your flight watcher do?
5) I took mine to South America for some mountaineering. I didn’t find out until later than none of the position updates made it…
My personal view is that the Spot is very good at narrowing a search area. As such, I always fly with one in remote areas (and leave it on for an hour after landing). However, based on many of the above noted problems, I do not rely on it exclusively. I have two messages programmed into mine, which email my flight watcher. The first is ‘this is a genuine emergency, please call XXX and dispatch all rescue services to me’. The second is, ‘I have done something stupid, but am okay… please send food/tools/or arrange a non-emergency retrieval’.
I think that a person should decide on what they need for their purpose. If it is a genuine real emergency, I would want a 121.5 and 406 PLB (with GPS), which will dispatch the cavalry immediately, without messing around with websites and calls to family friends. Further, the search and rescue crews from most Militaries will be able to home in on you (unlike the Spot). I have had a friend that crashed with a 406 MHz elt, (which activated on impact) and the Search and Rescue crews were rappelling into the site 30 minutes BEFORE the flight plan expired. This is what you want.
Second, I would consider how to signal the arriving search aircraft, e.g. flare, mirror, dye puck, handheld radio with GPS, etc.. It is no good if the C-130 flies right over you!!
In the UK, I haven’t bothered to renew my Spot plan (There are very few really remote areas), and instead fly with a 406 MHz GPS plb and a Yaesu 750 GPS handheld radio. Maybe if I was going up to Scotland, or around the Scandinavian countries, I would renew it.
Your mileage may vary…
You can link your SPOT messenger to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center and then the SOS button (which is protected from accidental usage) will send a message directly there. It has worldwide coverage and you can add a rescue bundle to your service plan to cover for the costs. The benefit of the SPOT is that you can also use it for less urgent matters to alert family and/or friends and for tracking. See: http://www.findmespot.eu/en/index.php?cid=104
AeroPlus, thanks for the update on the GEOS link (which addresses my point 1); however all of the other points still apply.
As I said, I like the SPOT and have used it a lot (and will use it again in the future), but I think it is important to realize the difference between it and a 121.5/406 MHz + GPS beacon.
I also have a real PLB but I don’t like it as it is larger in size and true, can be of value in case of a real emergency, but there might be other cases where it can help to have a satellite track and with the 2,5 minute updates that Spot 3 offers, it is valuable. It is true that sometimes one or 2 trackingpoints are omitted/skipped. I have the Spot 3, the Delorme Inreach device (which runs on the Iridium satellite network and allows 2-day text messaging which also gives you aviation weather as can be seen here: http://www.aeroplus.nl/delormes-inreach-sat-device-delivers-aviation-weather-to-the-cockpit ) but the Spot 3 is small in size and as such easy to take along with you.