Thieves set off PLB after burglary guiding the owner and police to a city street

A stolen Mcmurdo Fastfind Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) was tracked by its owner to a wheelie bin in Nottingham. James Tannock, a light aircraft pilot, suffered a burglary at his house earlier this month, and the beacon was amongst the items stolen. The thieves activated it and broke the flip top lid.

“The morning after the burglary,” James said, “The Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre at RAF Kinloss phoned up to ask if I was in distress, as my beacon had just been activated. I told them the beacon had been stolen and asked where it was. They replied that it seemed to be in central Nottingham, but they would need more satellite passes to provide a better fix. A couple of hours later, Kinloss very helpfully faxed to me a printout with the coordinates from several satellite passes. I plotted these on Google Earth and they outlined a few steets in a rough area of Nottingham called Radford. Although this is only the basic (non-GPS) model, the clustering of fixes was impressive, with an average error of perhaps 150 metres.

“That evening I took a cheap hand-held scanner and drove around the indicated steets in Radford, until I located the 121.5mHz signal, apparently coming from a house. I called the police and next day returned, with two plain-clothes CID officers accompanying me, hoping to find the beacon inside the house, perhaps with my other stolen property. Where the signal seemed strongest, we searched until we found the beacon in a wheelie bin – unfortunately the thieves had not dumped anything else (like my pilot’s licence and aircraft documents, etc!). At that stage it had been activated for about 28 hours but was still sending out good signals on both 406 and 121.5mHz. The satellite fixes were almost certainly obtained from the unit while it was in a closed bin.”

James has sent the PLB back to McMurdo for repairs, saying: “I was most impressed with the product’s robust performance and would recommend it to anyone.”