Chasing A Phantom Beacon In Miami
By Lt. Col. Robert J. Miller, Commander, Miami Senior One
Squadron, Civil Air Patrol
Lt Col Joseph M. Martin is the former commander of Miami
Senior One Squadron, Lt Col Robert J. Miller is the new commander
and 1Lt. John I. Hendricks is the Chaplain of the unit. Both Cols.
have DF experience and the Chaplain recently earned his 101
We were traveling homeward from our weekly meeting about 10:00pm
local time when Col. Martin, an IC, received a call from AFRRC
requesting assistance with a DF/ELT mission. The signal was on both
121.5 and 243. In order to expedite things, and since we were
already teamed up, we accepted the mission: 04M2531: opened at
10:10pm local, 23 November 2004.
After picking up our mission bags, mounting antennas and
powering up two DF's: "Old Reliable" and a brand new tracker unit,
"New Kid." We headed out.The nearest coordinates were those given
on the second satellite pass, so we programmed the GPS to guide us
there. This location proved fruitless, no signal. We conducted an
expanding block search out to a mile. Nothing heard in any
direction by either device. The GPS was reprogrammed to the
first-pass coordinates. We remounted and set out again.
Southbound on a busy avenue in a residential section, the GPS
beeped us to turn right; still no signal and the GPS showed a
half-mile to target. All that changed when we passed the seventh
house in, westbound from the avenue, both "Old Reliable" and the
"New Kid" came alive. They aired a strong and very unusual
signal.What we were hearing was not the usual chirping or yelping
signal we had heard so often before.
The signal was a low-pitched wave being counter-troughed by a
much higher one. It sounded similar to someone trying to tune a HAM
radio. We stopped and dismounted. Now afoot and using both DF's we
spread out to find the signals best strength. Within a few minutes
we met each other on the north side of the street in front of the
same duplex and determined the source to be one of two windows each
in a different side of the duplex and near the center. Just to be
sure, we scanned south. Nothing.
Rather than awaken people at this time of the night on a
"probable," we moved one block north, seven houses in, and scanned
again. Same result. We returned to the front of the duplex and
noted that the signal was only heard within about 60 feet from our
We called Miami-Dade Police for assistance in waking the
occupants. They responded within minutes and were very cooperative
after we explained our mission. The occupants of both apartments
were also very cooperative, but the interview and subsequent search
inside the rooms both proved negative. Yet, the signal persisted
and seemingly came from adjoining bedrooms, one in each
We called AFRRC. The third satellite pass had just been
completed and we were exactly on point. We explained that there was
no visible ELT device present and that the audible was very
strange. AFRRC suggested that we unplug any televisions and related
a recent unusual find in Oregon. We re-entered the first apartment
where two televisions were then unplugged. The occupants were still
up and watching us intently.
The signal persisted. We went next
door, to find three television sets. We unplugged the first in the
living room. Still, the signal went on. We unplugged the TV in the
back bedroom. The signal continued. We went to the third and last
television in the front bedroom. It held the second window from
which we thought the signal was coming. We concentrated both DFs
about the television.The signal was loud and we noted a 'clicking'
sound as we passed "Old Reliable" and it's rubber-ducky in front of
the set. The set was off, but still plugged into the wall outlet.
The owner reached down and unplugged the 27" Toshiba color
television from its power source.
The signal stopped and the signal strength indicator lights on
the newer "tracker" ebbed. Colonel Martin and I looked at each
other. The resident looked at us. We all looked at the TV.
We plugged it back in. The signal returned. We left it
unplugged. Just to be sure we scanned the room and TV again for a
signal, finding nothing but static. We went outside, separated and
scanned again. Static -- louder, but just static.
Col. Martin again called AFRRC with our report and began steps
to closeout the mission. We remounted our vehicle, re-scanned with
the three-antenna array and left the area. As it turned out, the
site was almost exactly a mile from my home. Col. Martin and I were
both happy that we found and disabled the target. We were also
curiously happy that our find, with the exception of a similarly
puzzling case in Oregon, was unique. And Chaplain Hendricks was
happy -- not just because he decided to be a member of the team,
but because he would soon be sporting a "find" ribbon on his