The pilot of a light twin-engined aircraft was able, following a total electrical failure at night, to bring his aircraft back to base by using a hand-held emergency locator beacon (ELB) and a mobile telephone.

The electrical failure occurred near the northern French coast on a flight from Pointoise, near Paris, to the aircraft’s base at Oxford, UK on 19 December.

Following the failure, the pilot had reduced instruments, and no lights or navigation, but he had a weak signal on his mobile phone.

When he turned the ELB on the signal was picked up by the French emergency services, the UK’s Swanwick area control centre, and the UK’s search and rescue centre at Kinloss, Scotland. Kinloss identified the aircraft and got in touch direct with the aircraft’s operator, Oasis Flight at Oxford, who made contact with the pilot by mobile telephone. Oasis’ operations department was able to ascertain the pilot’s first intention, which was to seek a landing site in northern France, but then he decided to continue to Oxford. Swanwick and Kinloss were able to track the aircraft all the way, and to pass regular position fixes and headings to Oasis for onward transmission to the pilot. After a 90min flight the aircraft landed safely at Oxford.

The ELB was a McMurdo Fast Find 201 unit, which Oasis says is standard fit in its aircraft, a Cessna 308 Crusader and Beechcraft Baron 58.