My close circle of friends will know what time it is. Text messages gawking at the sheer audacity of one battery manufacturers Martin Shkrelli pricing Ponzi scheme means it is annual time. And calling them a manufacturer is a little much. Hot gluing six Duracell batteries into a plastic enclosure seems like the kind of artisanal craftsmanship worthy of a $65 finders fee that you’d find only in a fever dream.

I chuckle at this antiquated radio. An Emergency Locater Transmitter, or ELT for short, came about in the 1950s, and became mandated on all commercial aircraft over 20 years later. Soon after, they became required equipment on airplanes like our Cub. Consisting of a small radio that plays a unique tone, these radios would play annoying beeps that would (hopefully) get the attention of someone listening into whatever pilots said on the emergency frequency before the modern day “meow” became standard. A decade later, satellites were launched into orbit to help pinpoint distress signals with roughly a 12 mile accuracy.

Plagued by erroneous false alerts which added up to over 98% of all activations, it was only a matter of time before we put modern technology and innovation into this emergency distress system.

And so we did. With GPS accuracy, and a new more satellite-friendly frequency, modern ELTs provide pilots in distress a quicker response now that a group of volunteers having spent dozens of hours completing FEMA online training modules don’t have to foxhunt weary transmitters across the US in old Air Force uniforms. However, in this transition, older ELTs like this classic EBC-102A now receive no support from the COSPAS-SARSAT network and conglomeration of international partners.

Every two years (or as required by the manufacturer), these old radios need new batteries. Hence the text messages “guess how much this was” to my fellow flying friends.

One might say an investment in a new modern ELT would be money well spent, and I’d somewhat agree with you. However, in the interest of weight savings and my mantra that “less is more,” products like the Garmin inReach do three things that a modern day ELT cannot do.

One. It sends progress reports. In the non-radar environment my cub thrives in, FlightAware and FlightRadar24 can’t track me. It certainly doesn’t help that the cub, having been certified without an electrical system, is without any of the requisite radios for ATC to even find me. In this void, the inReach sends position reports every X minutes while I fly, and provided my close friends know what the text messages mean, someone is at least somewhat aware of my current location.

Two. It can send SOS signals. Instead of hoping your quaint “sweeping tones” are picked up by the Russians, a priority message is sent through the robust Iridium global satellite system and once received, your whereabouts are coordinated in some sort of what I hope to be a Herculean search and rescue effort complete with helicopter support and some sort of dog sporting a nice beverage to enjoy around its neck. And on top of that, dispatchers will send you messages inquiring on the severity of the issue, allowing communication between sender and receiver to aid in the rescue.

Three. It is portable. While you could walk around with your ELT, it would be quite cumbersome, and I’m sure most of them are installed in a way that they don’t slide out of a bracket with the ease of mine (complete with a nylon strap). Nowadays these Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs, which are basically mini ELTs for personal use) would be more appropriate, but again lacking in the tracking and two-way communications found in most inReach-like devices.

On top of that, my inReach can be charged by the sun while out and about in the wilderness. Having spent a little over a week last year adventuring around the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, I found myself grateful for the suns presence through the days, and those smart people who figured out how to turn its rays into electricity. Also for not having a backpack pack full of glued together AA batteries to make my check-ins possible.

But yeah, it’s annual time and once again I’m paying ridiculous prices for these stupid batteries. I’ve found myself noticing the “best by” dates (that on alkaline batteries are usually well into the future) are conveniently rotated out of sight in these packs. Surely the artisans who spent years apprenticing with the elder statesmen in these worn out manufacturing plants out east were instructed in how to achieve such perfection in these painstaking processes knew what they were doing, leaving the manufactuer’s “MISE EN GARDE: Branchez correctement, reportez-vouz au manuel de l’appareil” note visible for all to see, in case we happened to know French.

A more spiteful person may refine the process and sell these batteries for less, however few of us using these old ELTs remain, and likely won’t net the revenue sufficient to put the MERL Inc corporation out of business like a Larry David / Mocha Joe battle royale. A less honest person might photoshop their way into new batteries every two years. Some might even disregard the whole unit itself, using these modern inReach devices to not only meet but exceed the usefulness of such antiquated technology.

But for me, I’ll make sure MERL and their workers can keep the lights on, and that the time-honored traditions of hot gluing AA batteries can continue to the future generation of ELT battery engineers. I’ll continue to try to get a rise out of my friends at the ridiculous expense of these stupid batteries every two years. And when I find myself being the lone customer of these BP-1045 alkaline battery packs and the factory turns their lights off for good, I’ll invest the two minutes necessary to warm up my hot glue gun and start bootlegging these $65 marvels of engineering and sell them at a fair price.