The AIM encourages all pilots to monitor Guard while in flight and all air carriers are supposed to monitor 121.5 if they’re not using the radio for another purpose. Military aircraft radios are designed so that Guard is always monitored.
For Mooney pilots, we don’t have it that easy. We must actually tune in 121.5 on the second radio and then physically push a button to monitor it. Whew!
Why should you monitor Guard? Here are a few great reasons:
You Might Help Save Someone
ELTs, which broadcast on 121.5 VHF (Civilian) and 243.0 UHF (Military), are no longer monitored by the SARSAT system. So who does listen to these frequencies? Both frequencies are “guarded” by:
- Military Towers
- Most Civil Towers
- Flight Service Stations
- Radar Facilities
If you add yourself to that list of listeners, someday, you might be the only person in the world who can receive an important ELT transmission or a “Mayday” cry for help. What a great feeling that would be, to know that because you were monitoring “Guard”, you were able to save a life or two; turning someone’s terrible and tragic day into a timely rescue.
If You Hear an ELT, What Information Will Help ATC?
- Your position at the time the signal was first heard
- Your position at the time the signal was last heard
- Your position at maximum signal strength
- Your altitude and position relative to a navigational aid
Guard Might Come in Handy Some Day
Some day, you might be the guy who needs help. If you already have 121.5 set up, you can quickly, with the flick of a switch, transmit a Mayday call.
Sometimes, ATC Forgets to “Hand You Off”
If the controller forgets about you and allows you to fly out of his or her radio range, the next controller, might try to call you on Guard. Why? Because he or she would want to give you the new and correct frequency. If you are monitoring 121.5 (Guard), chances are, you’ll soon be with the right controller.
A Cheap Source of Amusement/Entertainment
When a Southwest pilot forgets to select “Public Address” (PA) and accidentally gives his passenger announcement on the emergency frequency, you’ll be listening and most likely you’ll be amused! In addition, lots of stupid stuff is broadcast on “Guard”. You wouldn’t want to miss any of that!
Pop Up TFR Insurance
Here’s a great scenario. Let’s say that a new TFR has popped up and dang, you’re about to fly right through it.
If you’re monitoring Guard, the controlling agency may try to contact you on 121.5. There’s a good chance that you’ll hear the controller’s call and he or she might be able to help you avoid the restricted airspace.
If you failed to receive the first warning, but are still monitoring Guard, you can learn lots of great information. Stuff like, where the F-16 on your wing wants you to land and park your Mooney for the next six months.
Why not monitor “Guard” for at least six months? See if you like it. Chances are, you will and in the process, you’ll be able to better serve aviation.