Handheld Radios

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by jsstevens, Nov 27, 2017.

  1. jsstevens

    jsstevens En-Route

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    From those who have and use them, which ones do you like? Sporty's SP 400 looks nice. But what about ICOM and Yaesu? I'm thinking about asking for one as a Christmas gift. I like the ones with nav & comm capability and thinking this makes a good item to have in my bag as I'm starting IR in earnest.

    Thoughts?
    John
     
  2. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Thoughts?

    The nav capability will never be used.

    Ability to use AA batteries is a good thing.

    Headset adapter and PTT are good things.

    External antenna is a good thing.
     
  3. Ben

    Ben Pre-Flight

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    I have the ICOM. Got it as a hand me down from a fellow avgeek who upgraded. I love it, wish the range could be extended though- I keep it on my window sill and I can hear the CTAF from my local airport.

    Would love to hear the controlled/military airspace 30 miles away, but I'm not allowed to mount any antennas outside my house (per the wife).
     
  4. jsstevens

    jsstevens En-Route

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    Why are you so sure about the nav capability never being used?
     
  5. wilkersk

    wilkersk Cleared for Takeoff

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    I have an SP400 and an iCom IC-A23. The SP400 worked great as long as I didn't need it. When I needed it, it developed a bag segment on the screen (probably from living in my flight bag for so long and being squished up against something).

    The IC-A23 was inherited in an airplane purchase. It has a very small and compact form-factor and less than intuitive menu system that can be quite frustrating when trying to hand-fly an aircraft and program in an enroute frequency, or adjust the side-tone volume or squelch. My little kayak with wings didn't have any avionics, just a handheld radio. And, every time I fly, someone informs me that my radio is "weak and scratchy". I'm installing a panel mount radio this winter. :-(
     
  6. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Mostly because a tablet with WAAS GPS would be much easier to use. I've attempted to use nav capability with a handheld and basically said it just isn't practical to include in a scan. Maybe if the handheld was mounted in the panel and had an external antenna it could be used. Much easier to use the handheld to talk to ATC and get vectors.
     
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  7. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I've got a Vertex Standard VTX 710 and a old Sporty's something or other. I use the Sporty's more. The sound is better. As with others, I've never used the nav features of the handheld. My ancient Garmin handheld GPS or ForeFlight on my iPhone or iPad works a gazillion times better.
     
  8. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I'll give the same answer I always do:

    I've used most brands and several models (except the newest Sporty's). I used them all pretty hard in the glider club.

    All brands xmit with the same power and rcv pretty much the same. Some brands are a little louder (handy on a noisy ramp or when clipped to your belt), some brands are more water resistant. All are built solidly and can take somewhat of a drop.

    All are different in their user interface. Some are easier to program freqs, some are easier to set squelch. These things are really personal preference and are what makes one "better" than the others.

    Try to borrow a couple brands and play around with them for about an hour each, you can download the manuals.

    I use the Icom, mine has the NAV. I got it on sale and had a gift certificate, otherwise I would have gotten the non-nav unit. The rcv range on a VOR is pretty short, you will be within a couple miles of it already anyway. It's a bit complicated to configure unless you do it often, and nobody does.

    I have the speaker-mic for use in the glider. I can clip it on the shoulder harness next to my ear, but don't use it otherwise.
     
  9. RalphInCA

    RalphInCA Cleared for Takeoff

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    I concur. The A23 has a terrible user interface. I purchased the radio as an emergency radio, meaning I planned to use it very rarely. Since I use it very rarely, I forget it’s operations and figuring it out is not easy!

    You don’t want to be figuring out a stupid radio when you’re in an emergency, high stress situation.

    If I wasn’t such a cheapskate I would junk it and get a easier to use model.
     
  10. edo2000

    edo2000 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I have an Icom A14 that I bought used on Ebay. No problems with it in 3 years. Don't use it a lot, but have never had any complaints of weak transmissions. Didn't know about the Sporty's model with VOR/Glideslope capability when I bought the Icom. I think I would have gone with the Sporty's just to have the glideslope to play with. I'm instrument rated but have no glideslope or precision GPS capability in my current aircraft.
     
  11. Adam Weiss

    Adam Weiss Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I just got the Sporty's SP-400 as a gift last week, and took it up on Saturday for the first time.
    It worked really well.
    Got the plug for the headset, and could hear just fine.

    For me, this is a 100% backup item that I'll keep in my bag and hope I never need.
    But I did try it out on the ILS approach, and it worked flawlessly...looked just like the indicator on the panel.
    Legality aside, I think it could be used in an emergency and get you on the ground.
     
  12. Ravioli

    Ravioli Final Approach

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    I agree with @Clark1961 -- don't get the nav or GPS stuff.

    I've got an iCom A-6 that works fine when I'm buzzing around the airport in the golf cart. I've used it once in a comm failure while flying and here I am alive!

    My buddy is a HAM radio guy and loves the quality of Yaesu. When my iCom craps out I'll probably go with a Yaesu 250L equivalent. [I don't suspect my iCom is going to crap out any time soon]
     
  13. AggieMike88

    AggieMike88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    +1 to what Clark said.... I recently purchased a unit that has the nav functions. Nav functions are very difficult to use. And I now don't see myself using it during flight. It's there, but now appears to be more "gadgety" than actually useful.

    Comm functions are super simple to use on the fly, and the ability to save frequently used frequencies both individually and by "folder" is a good feature.

    The one I purchased did come with both the rechargeable and AA pack, and headset connectors.
     
  14. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    My mechanic availed herself of the 121.5 hotkey when confronted with flying the Navion with just the handheld comm trying to get into a towered field.
     
  15. RalphInCA

    RalphInCA Cleared for Takeoff

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    I’m glad she was able to do that.

    But wouldn’t it be better if she could’ve figured out very quickly how to tune the airport frequency?
     
  16. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Frankly, since she departed from an uncontrolled field, I'd have dialed in the tower frequency from the ground before I departed. Anyhow, I was 2000 miles away when this happened. Bobbi was flying the plane while Margy was returning the rental car.
     
  17. Skyrys62

    Skyrys62 Pattern Altitude

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    Do any these handhelds have earphone jacks?
     
  18. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    You need to get a headset adapter.
     
  19. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The VERTEX/Yazoo has a combination headphone/micro mini plug. As Matthew says, you get a headset adapter for it if you are serious about using it in the plane.
    My ancient Sportys has seperate miniplugs for headphone and microphone,.
     
  20. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The jacks on the handhelds are usually some combo for speaker and mic. Some have separate plugs. Just gotta read the specs.
     
  21. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Here's a problem I have:

    Icom
    headset adapter
    external PTT
    DC 13.5 headset

    Pressing the PTT generates feedback into the headset, probably through the mic circuit.

    Icom has a "solution", but I tried it and it doesn't work. I'll need to play around with this again and try to remember all the different types of behavior with/without the PTT and unplugging my headset mic and using the handheld mic and keying it with the built-in PTT.

    http://www.icomamerica.com/en/support/kb/article.aspx?ArticleNumber=64JA571413

    Anyone else seen this before? I tried this with several headsets, so it isn't just mine. But I can't remember if I've seen this problem on other handhelds. Icom says it will occur on any handheld.
     
  22. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Some might be able to take a mini-plug directly, but from what I've seen all the brands are different. Some might, some might not. I'm pretty sure my ICOM has that, but I've never tried it with anything other than the speaker mic and headset adapter.
     
  23. saddletramp

    saddletramp Line Up and Wait

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    I purchased two Sporty 400s this spring for use in my glider business. They have both been used hard & were very reliable. I was surprised with the long battery life & having a bunch of batteries on hand made it easy to change them as the unit got weak.

    I wouldn't hesitate to buy the Sportys again. My .02 worth.
     
  24. bluesideup

    bluesideup Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Hi everyone.
    You may not need something, a feature / option, right now, but it's good to have something that you may never use, just in case.
    I've owned 2 Sporty's, A300 and the 200. I am still using the 300, it's about 20-25 years old? I actually had to use the 300 on a fairly long trip, from Passo Robles to Big Bear, both the Comm and the Nav. We were flying an old C72 that had tube radios and all the NavComms quit, we were 2 pilots and we took turns in doing the com, using only earbuds, no head sets in that one.
    It worked fine, and we were up at 9500 got good range, and some of the VORs had decent guidance.
    The 200 stopped working, it had a screw that was holding the belt clip that shorted something inside, and I did not want to take the time to fix it.
    I use the battery pack from 200, that had 8 batteries space, in the 300, with the rechargeable batteries. It still works fine, but recently I only use it for ATIS.
    That said, many moons ago, that radio paid for itself.

    Stay away from any battery operated device that uses special batteries, typically when the batteries die the device is useless / dead.
     
  25. BillTIZ

    BillTIZ Final Approach

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    I had an Icom A22 for over 15 yrs. the charging circuit finally gave out. I have a new Icom A6 now.

    The A22 had an adapter for a regular headset jacks with a 3mm PTT switch. No problems with feedback.
    They also supported speaker/mic, but they all drain the battery quickly.
     
  26. cowman

    cowman En-Route

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    I've thought about getting one but I have also thought about how a com failure wouldn't be a big deal on most of my flights seeing as how it's mostly in uncontrolled airspace/airports- and knowing how stuff works the one day I'd actually want to use it the battery would surely be dead.
     
  27. Shawn

    Shawn En-Route

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    I had a com panel failure once and used only my HH to get home from a Class C airport...otherwise I would have been stranded all weekend with no available services to get me back in operation (short of coordinating a NORDO departure with tower and approcah). Having the HH available made it a non event.

    My suggestion...keep it simple. You likely won't be using it a ton to be proficient in all the bells and whistles and when you need it in a pinch...which is why you will have it...you will just want it to work without trying to also figure out menus and options while dealing with whatever situation is requiring you to use the HH.

    Two things that are a requirements for me...headset adapter and rechargeable batery with optional AA battery sled.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
  28. Vince R

    Vince R Pre-Flight

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    I had a com failure heading into KGON...gave me a chance to practice those light signals that I never wanted to memorize. Next day I ordered a Yaesu 750 and so far I love it.

    Best features are that it’s rugged, runs forever on a charge, you can use AA batteries in a pinch, the headset adapter works with any aviation headset and it’s easy to connect to an external antenna. Punching in a frequency is trivial using the keypad. I also like the charging station - it lets me keep the battery charged and listen in on my local airport.

    Yes, it has a VOR/ILS/GPS nav built in, but I’m not sure I’d ever use any of them over my Stratus 2 as a backup. There’s a PC programmer for the complicated parts, but I’ve never used it. That said, the UI is pretty horrible once you get into the complicated stuff.

    I use it regularly for ATIS and clearance delivery, and it seems to sound about the same as the aircraft radios. In my tests, I can receive VORs at maybe 10-15 miles.

    Overall, even though it was expensive, I’m happy with it - especially if it protects me from those evil light signals!
     
  29. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    Ditto with this.

    I had a Yeasu and it was excellent. Had the alkaline back up battery pack. But it was set up so it could be used as Com2 in my plane and went with it when I sold that plane.

    Now I have an iCom and really dislike the user interface.
     
  30. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform Pattern Altitude

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    Do you use it for ATIS and Clearance before you fire up? Or do you somehow hook into your audio panel? Never thought of that before...I guess that also works as a back-up comm check.
     
  31. cgrab

    cgrab Cleared for Takeoff

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    I have a Vertex 210 and I'm on my second NiMH battery and I'm getting a AA pack for Christmas since they seem to loose there longevity over time. I use it to get the ATIS before each flight and to have on ground when I'm driving through the airport and crossing taxiways to get to my hangar.
    I soldered a wire for my antenna that connects to the planes antenna to increase the range.
    Never used the VOR part.
    I used it once when I had a total electrical failure so it is worth having.
     
  32. tawood

    tawood Pattern Altitude

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    I have a rechargeable Icom that I keep in the charging cradle in the hangar between flights, and in the seat back during flights with a headset adapter, for radio emergencies.

    Never had a radio emergency.
     
  33. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I use my handheld nearly every flight. Turn it on to ATIS/ASOS during preflight. I've only used it once in-flight, when I was riding with another guy in a plane with a single radio. I got the ATIS while he was on the radio doing something else. Mine has a rechargeable battery and it's having problems holding a charge. Transmitting will drain batteries quickly.
     
  34. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I've had a couple of NORDO incidents though I'd not characterize them as emergencies. In all cases it wasn't the radios themselves that went out but the electrical system driving them.

    In one case I got a green light from the tower. In most of the others, I just went into an uncontrolled field.

    In one case, I was in the backseat and after the student in the left seat bungled the call to IAD approach about the loss of electrics, the instructor told him to give me the radio. Alas, the King KX99 had a nearly dead NiCad pack which wouldn't allow me to transmit (at least not that was heard by anybody). Fortunately, the controller heard enough of the first call to understand. First, he tried to relay to me off incoming airliners (no joy). Then I get:

    IAD: 4SP, we have a primary only target 20 miles NE of the field. If you believe that is you, turn to heading 270.
    (I beat on the instructor's (he's the one flying at this point) back and shout, turn to 270 and he does).
    IAD: Very good, 4SP if you'd like to come to Dulles, turn to heading 210
    (I yell 210 at the instructor. This puts us on a direct heading toward the runway).
    IAD: 4SP you're cleared to land, any runway. If we don't hear from you, we'll roll the equipment.
    ME: We don't need the equipment, 4SP.
    IAD: Very good. (yea! they heard that).

    I wasn't able to reach them once we landed. The radio was now completely dead. We taxied in. The instructor set to debrief the student while I called the tower to thank them for their assistance.
     
  35. tawood

    tawood Pattern Altitude

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    Funny thing is, if I had a radio out, and it was day time, I probably wouldn't go for the handheld...problem is, I fly 25% at night: the handheld can turn on the lights.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
  36. Eric Gleason

    Eric Gleason Pre-takeoff checklist

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    If you're in a metal airplane, the reception will be pretty poor unless you have an external antenna, and even the free smartphone or tablet apps will provide more accurate and reliable navigation. It was a cool feature to have on your handheld in the 80s and 90s, but there are better backups now.

    I tried using a handheld radio in an airplane once to get landing clearance. It was just barely usable without the headset adapter, so I consider that a must for a reliable backup. I hadn't thought about keeping the adapter plugged in before, but will start doing that.

    I've been using an ancient King KX-99 with an AA battery pack. It's a workhorse, super easy to use, and cheap when you can find them on the used market. I don't use it very much, and I haven't had to change the batteries in several years. A customer gave me his barely-used Yaesu, but I honestly haven't bothered to figure it out yet.
     
  37. TRocket

    TRocket Line Up and Wait

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    I can speak for the Sporty's 400, I like it. Pretty simple to use. And I like having the added security of the ILS functionality. If you ever get into an emergency situation and have a total electrical failure, it would be nice to have if there are no other options. And for the record, it is surprisingly accurate. When I was just about done with my IR training, just for fun my instructor had me fly and ILS with it, believe it or not it worked really well. While obviously not legal to fly with, if I am in a life or death situation, legal is the last thing on my mind. Overall, I think it is a good radio, cannot personally speak for the others, though I did research them heavily when I purchased my sporty's.

    My 2 cents...
     
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  38. Ventucky Red

    Ventucky Red Line Up and Wait

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    Hey John,

    I have the iCom IC-A22.. have had it since 1993 and have abused the hell out of it...dropped it a few times, left it in the rain on top of a wing, etc.... and it still works... and the VOR nav function is pretty accurate. Had to send it back to iCom for a repair once and they fixed it at not charge... it was long pass the guarantee period..

    If I had to go out and buy one today I would probably got with iCom again..

    John
     
  39. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

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    I fly a J-3 Cub and I use the Yaesu 550 Nav features.
    I've used Sportys, Yaesu, and Icom.
    Yaesu is my personal favorite, followed by Icom.
    OH, BTW: I just bought a new Yaesu 750L. It hasn't arrived yet. I'll let you know how it works out.
     
  40. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Since you quoted me I'll ask if you expect a response?