Communication is paramount when operating aircraft; thus, aviation handheld radios play a key role in every cockpit. Often called air band avionic radios, they are available in ground station, panel mount, and handheld types. While most aircraft benefit from panel mount radios, some pilots take advantage of smaller, portable handheld versions.
A handheld radio is a great investment, letting pilots save time and money. For student pilots, a handheld radio serves as an invaluable educational tool for listening and familiarizing yourself with local air traffic. Furthermore, handheld radios allow you to hear what other pilots are saying about a given situation and how they respond to ATC. As an added bonus, handheld radios can also let you tune into traffic at air shows.
When shopping for a handheld radio, there are a few things to consider. To clear up any confusion, this section will discuss some important decision-making points.
Battery life is an important factor to consider when making a purchasing decision. The good thing is that most radios are equipped with both a DC and an AC charging option, allowing pilots to charge them at home or in the cockpit. It is worth noting that the average battery life for a radio is determined by the battery’s capacity (measured in mAh) and how it is being used. Keep in mind that a higher mAh number provides a longer battery life. Generally, a battery that is utilized for navigation and communication will drain faster than one used exclusively for communication. It is important to note that it takes less power for a radio to receive input than it does to transmit it.
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) allocates certain frequency bands for aviation, so understanding the bands your radio can receive and transmit on is important. Handheld air band radios in particular receive and transmit in Very High Frequency (VHF) bands. Nonetheless, the frequencies will vary based on how your radio is designed and its navigation functionality. For communication purposes, the range should fall between 118.000-136.975. Communication and navigation radios, on the other hand, have an additional range from 108.000-117.975. Weather channels can also be accessed, those of which are located between 161 and 164 mHz. Lastly, a dedicated distress button automatically transmits on 121.500 mHz.
Uses & Popular Types
As previously discussed, handheld radios are available as communications and navigation (COM/NAV) and communications-only variations. The former is more versatile and finds multiple uses in the cockpit. Some of the best COM/NAV radios include the Yaesu FTA-750L handheld VHF transceiver with GPS, Yaesu FTA-550L Li-Ion handheld VHF transceiver, Icom IC-A25N (NAV/COMM/VOR & GPS) handheld VHF transceiver, and various others.
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