August 26, 2003
Signal leads police to airport burglary suspect
Lucas Register never suspected the equipment he is accused of stealing
from an airport hangar last week would lead authorities right to his door.
But police allegedly followed a homing signal from the stolen
emergency locator transmitter right up to a closet door in his
Winchester apartment Saturday. He was arrested on suspicion of
second-degree burglary and first-degree theft. The 22-year-old is
charged with breaking into a hangar at the Roseburg Regional Airport
Friday night and taking the transmitter and other items, according to
a Roseburg Police Department press release.
"It's to allow us to find a downed aircraft," said Tom Hyers,
coordinator of the Amateur Radio Emergency Services Division of the
Douglas County Search and Rescue team. The radio team provides
communications support for search and rescue and other emergency
operations in the county, including plane crashes.
The device transmits a signal to a satellite receiver, which then
relays the transmitter's geographical coordinates to authorities at
Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. Langley sent the information to
the Oregon Operations of Emergency Management Saturday, which notified
officials in Douglas County that a signal had been transmitting since
"It's probably the size of a king-size carton of cigarettes," Hyers
said. The yellow device also has a small antenna, internal batteries,
and is designed to withstand the force of a moderate airplane crash.
"Almost all small aircraft have these aboard them," Hyers said, adding
they are not as strong as the famous "black box" recorders found in
There are two ways to begin transmitting from the ELT, Hyers said. It
can either be turned on manually, or triggered by a centrifugal switch
when an airplane makes a hard landing. He did not know whether
Register tripped the switch inadvertently or had done so while playing
around with it.
As soon as Hyers and his partner, Tim Clauson, were notified that a
signal was transmitting from somewhere in the county, they began
narrowing down its location using sophisticated electronic tracking
"It took us about two hours to home into this," Hyers said. "We knew
it was in the Roseburg area."
Hyers and Clauson, both volunteers, climbed the hills above Roseburg
to plot the signal's course before deciding it was coming from an
apartment complex in Winchester.
"Once it put us into that complex we kept working the signal, very
cautiously adjusting our equipment until we could arrive at exactly
what apartment," he said. "At that point, it became a law enforcement
Officers from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and the Roseburg
Police Department arrested Register at his apartment, according to the
Roseburg Police release. They are also investigating a possible
connection between Friday's burglary and a theft from an airport
hangar on Aug. 20.
Hyers said Register denied he had the stolen equipment right up until
they tracked its signal to his closet.
"He said, 'No, I don't have a yellow box,'" mimicked Hyers. "'Oh, that