🔴 A signal from an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) triggered a response

🔴 All planes are equipped with an ELT

🔴 The search ended with no plane located


The mystery of a distress signal that seemed to originate from a small aircraft that disappeared off the radar triggering a search is solved.

Barnegat police said the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst notified them around 3:15 p.m. about an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) signal originating from a wooded area in the municipality.

An extensive search using drones, off-road vehicles, helicopters and on foot by several fire companies plus the Ocean County Sheriff's Office and the New Jersey Forest Fire Service did not turn up a crashed aircraft.

A spokesman on behalf of the Joint Base said a glitch is to blame for sending out what was not an actual distress signal.

"Sometimes there is a weird bounce effect. There was some type of malfunction being triggered somewhere near Philadelphia. And for whatever reason, it may have registered over the southern Ocean County area," the spokesman told New Jersey 101.5. "How that happened I couldn't say, and they can't really explain it here, either."

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Map shows area of search for a possible crashed small plane in Barnegat.
Map shows area of search for a possible crashed small plane in Barnegat 5/7/24 (Canva)
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Procedure in place for a missing plane search

Posts on social media about a possible plane crash ramped up interest in the search.

When the Joint Base receives an ELT signal is received, they notify local authorities.

It is highly unlikley the signal was somehow faked, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. In fact, an association spokesman said it's never happened before.

"It's usually an inadvertent switching of the ELT for testing. We really haven't heard of anybody purposely triggering the alert and it's usually done by mistake," the spokesman said, adding that certified pilots are part of a "safe and conscious" community.

Emergency Locator Transmitter
Emergency Locator Transmitter
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