Should I get a handheld avionics radio?

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by john745, May 25, 2021.

  1. john745

    john745 Filing Flight Plan

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    Working on my ppl. Very early in the process I've got less than 10 hours. Just barely started working on radio communication today.

    Should I buy a handheld radio? If so which do you recommend? Do most people buy these for training or do they buy them for emergency situations? Or is this something that a second party can use to contact me on the ground in austere environment?

    My plans are primarily recreation. Intend on getting an instrument rating and tail wheel.

    Thank you in advance for your responses.

    I just don't want to buy a $300 radio that I don't even use.
     
  2. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Buy a very good set of headphones, first. Your hearing is far more valuable than tinkering with a radio.
    Frankly, the handheld radio is about the least used piece of gear I own in several decades of flying.
    Even with an instrument rating, I rarely use it. It sits in the kitchen mostly to click on the runway lights if someone is coming in and doesn't know how to do it.
     
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  3. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I’m betting most people never/rarely use their backup handheld but in a situation where you NEED it, you’ll be glad you have it. Can’t see why it would be high on your list of things you need at this point...
     
  4. MacFlier

    MacFlier Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I have one and it's useful in two ways: in a radio failure, you still have a handheld and may be able to talk if radio is out or if you have an total electrical failure. It can be a lifesaver in IMC. Another way is to use it to get your IFR clearance before you start the engine, so you're not paying to listen to the clearance (I'm a renter).
    I realize you're at the PPL stage, so definitely invest in a good headset first like someone mentioned.
     
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  5. Bill

    Bill Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    We bought one, it went onto the hat shelf in the plane, and I personally haven't looked at the thing in 10 years at least.
     
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  6. kgruber

    kgruber En-Route

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    Might as well get one now. Buy cheap...............it doesn't need GPS or anything. Cheap and simple.

    Because you WILL eventually.........we all do, even if we never use it!!
     
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  7. GaryM

    GaryM Line Up and Wait

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    I've never used mine in the plane, but I've always felt better knowing I have it with me. Especially since I fly in fairly busy airspace. Where a backup still isn't required, but I find it comforting...

    I do use it sometimes to pick up the ATIS, either from the airport or from home (I can pick it up if I'm on the second floor). I would sometimes drive to an airport as a student and use it to listen, to get more comfortable with radio work--but you can also do that perfectly well from home using live ATC.

    I did use it once at the end of a fly-in, when a plane taxied past me to the hold short line with their baggage door open. I was able to alert them since I was carrying the handheld, even though I wasn't at my plane.
     
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  8. bluesideup

    bluesideup Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Hi.
    I recommend getting one, especially as a student it will give you an additional sense of security, and I used a Sporty's 300 in flight once, I go back a ways, when all the navcoms, mostly tubes radios failed, and we were able to return to the home base without issues. I've also had a student use one at an airport he was unfamiliar with when the com failed to guide him to a radio shop on the field and had it repaired, or if you forget the lost com / light signals procedures....
    You can also use it at home, build a good antenna, to listen to nearby communication which is one of the more difficult for students to get at first.
    I also use it to listen to students when solo, give them directions....
    You can also get information / ATIS... if you rent and are on Hobbs, before you start the plane and save everything you paid for it in a very short time...
     
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  9. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg Administrator Management Council Member

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    For student learning purposes, I think LiveATC does the same thing for free.

    After you finish your PPL it's an accessory you'll seldom use and which will never be charged if you try, unless your local field is NOT covered by LiveATC. Then it's great for sitting at the airport and judging radio calls and landings :D
     
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  10. Clip4

    Clip4 Final Approach

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    No, you don’t need a handheld radio. If you wish to listen to ATC to aid in communications learning, ATC Live and others are available.
     
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  11. dfw11411

    dfw11411 Pre-Flight PoA Supporter

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    A few years back I had a complete electrical failure in a rental. Feeling fully prepared for the situation, I pulled out my never-used-before handheld radio and plugged in my headset. I could hear ATC, but they couldn't hear me. ATC issued instructions and asked me to Ident for Roger Wilco. Obviously they've had this happen before. After landing I sent the radio for repair only to learn that it was fine. Was the adapter cord. Also never used before. I didn't suspect the adapter cable so never thought to pull the headset out and use the radio's mic/speaker. I've never needed the handheld since, but it's nice to have within easy reach while flying.
     
  12. bluesideup

    bluesideup Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Hi.
    And how do you do that? You need another $2-300.00 device?
    Look at it this way, on Hobbs you are likely to pay $3-4.00 / min. to rent. If you can get ATIS /Wx Clearance... before engine start you just save yourself .1 hrs. Add that up, if for no other reason if you rent it would pay for itself in a short time.
     
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  13. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    To monitor things, I use a used Uniden scanner I bought for $20 on ebay. Unless you're really close to the ATC transmitter, you're not going to hear anything useful on it. I couldn't even get the ATIS when I had one in my car until I was right at the airport. Live ATC works better (and if you're reading this message, you already have the "device" you need to monitor it most likely).

    All the rental outfits I dealt with had the Hobbs on the oil pressure. I could let the master go until the battery went down listening to the radios if I wanted. An ATIS broadcast isn't going to add up to .1 at most places. It's going to take a long time to make back the money on the handheld.

    The one time I attempted to use a handheld in an "emergency" it barely worked (not my plane, not my radio) as it was nearly dead (always use alkalines). The only other time my handheld came in handy in flight was when we were in Australia and one of the OTHER planes in our group had a comm radio failure and I loaned them mine.

    With a dark panel in IMC, I'd rather have NAV than COM any day. ATC will get everybody out of the way.
     
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  14. sarangan

    sarangan Cleared for Takeoff

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    Its not worth buying. If you lose radio in uncontrolled airspace, its not a big deal. If you lose while in busy airspace talking to ATC, chances are your cell phone would get enough reception. If you can connect to your phone via bluetooth, it makes everything easier.
     
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  15. texasclouds

    texasclouds Pattern Altitude

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    Do you wear a belt and suspenders?
     
  16. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I’m not saying DON’T get a backup handheld (although I kinda am) but none of your reasons justify it. LiveATC is free (which you clearly aren’t aware of since you asked if it would cost $200-300), as is dialing up the WX phone number. If listening to the whopping 22 seconds of ATIS delays you so much or u aren’t capable of multi tasking, shame on you. If there’s no WX phone #, listen to ATIS while taxiing. No wasted time at all.
     
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  17. chemgeek

    chemgeek Pattern Altitude

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    A handheld radio is basically a piece of emergency equipment. I use mine to contact clearance on the ground pre-start, otherwise it is simply there in case I lose electrics. It would be less important if you are VFR-only.
     
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  18. woodchucker

    woodchucker Pattern Altitude

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    I have had two flights where non-pilot induced radio issues came up. A back-up would have been helpful but not required. I have one now that I carry every flight. If you do carry one make sure you keep the headset adapter plugged in so it’s an easy switch out if needed.
     
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  19. bluesideup

    bluesideup Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Hi.
    Just read your own message and you will find out that the diode in your wisdom tooth will Not suffice. At most controlled airports you will spend at least .1 hr getting Wx, Clearance...
    I found that a hand held was a good inexpensive investment and recommend it to everyone.
     
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  20. brcase

    brcase Pattern Altitude

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    When I had the radio quit on me, I just called the tower on my Cell Phone. I am sure the FCC would not have approved, but it worked.

    Brian
     
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  21. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I am glad a handheld works for you.
     
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  22. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I doubt I spend 6 minutes doing that even at the class B airport I was based at (IAD). Certainly never spent that much time at an ordinary class D.
     
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  23. Bill

    Bill Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    besides, I like to let the oil warm to at least 90*F before taxi, so I use that time to get the wx, contact CD or ground...
     
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  24. pigpenracing

    pigpenracing En-Route

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    Get one.... Stand around the airport and drink beer and talk smack to all the pilots coming in :)
     
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  25. MBDiagMan

    MBDiagMan En-Route

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    If you’re on a limited budget, save that expense for later in your flying. You can get along quite well without one.
     
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  26. X3 Skier

    X3 Skier En-Route

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    I use one in my ultralight but never had to use it in any other “real” situation or airplane. I do use it when I’m at the hangar performing “essential” activities on the planes like pointing out a few “oops” to friends on observing a less than perfect landing. They are not shy at returning the favor.

    It’s down the priority list for a student as far as I’m concerned. OTOH Sporty’s new one PJ2 is $200.

    Cheers
     
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  27. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Of course, watch around. I was able to snag a used sporty's handheld for very small $ on this board. It was missing the antenna, but I dug through my box of random rubber ducks (I am a long time ham radio operator) and got one that worked well enough to contact IAD Clearance Delivery from my house about two miles from the tower.
     
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  28. 1000RR

    1000RR Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I'm almost finished with my PPL, prepping for the check ride. I bought one a ways back. Picked up the Sporty's PJ2 which isn't too expensive. It's SUPER simple to use, no fancy GPS, just a radio. Has a direct plug-in port for your GA headset (<--- main reason I chose this one) and you can attach an antenna cable to it in place of the antenna if you prefer - our Club's 172 has an extra antenna with a wire available for a handheld if desired. The radio just sits in the outside pocket of my backpack and doesn't really take up any room. I'm in Florida and there can be a bit of busy airspace so I just felt better having a backup. It's like insurance. You don't need it till you do. I like the above mention of buying a good headset first though. There's so many things over my life that I've bought and not needed... but I wanted them, so I got them. If you like the idea and want one - get one. It's likely not going to be used much at all, but if you like the idea of having it as a backup - getcha one!
     
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  29. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    I've had one for 20 years. I can count on the fingers of one had the number of times I've really needed it. Contrarily, at those time I REALLY needed it, so I'm glad I have it. I used ever year to listen to ATC at Oshkosh.
     
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  30. Fearless Tower

    Fearless Tower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I’ve carried a handheld radio in my flight bag since I was a student pilot. Only used it once as a backup radio from the airplane. Was glad I had it, but would have been fine without it.

    On the other hand, when I started flying professionally, I’ve used it a ton to get my clearance before engine start.

    I’d definitely recommend owning a handheld if you fly a lot of IFR especially with passengers.
     
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  31. OneCharlieTango

    OneCharlieTango Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Then you don’t want a handheld. I’ve been carrying one around since 1992 and have never, ever used it for anything other than ATIS and rarely listening to people in the pattern while I putter in the hangar. Since I’ve been carrying it so long, I’m reluctant to quit. Maybe I’m superstitious.
     
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  32. 1000RR

    1000RR Pre-takeoff checklist

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    $200 for the Sporty's PJ2. In July of last year I got it (may have been on sale) for $180. Super easy to use, and like mentioned above has the GA headset jack already built in. ---> https://www.sportys.com/pj2-handheld-com-radio.html
     
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  33. Scott Honigmann

    Scott Honigmann Filing Flight Plan

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    Yes!. After a alternator/comms failure a few years ago , it was my warning sign to get one . I did and rarely use it other then listening in on local traffic. HOWEVER, I would rather have it and not need it rather then need it and NOT have it. lol
    Be sure to keep extra batteries for it
     
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  34. KiloBravo75

    KiloBravo75 Filing Flight Plan

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    In a recent similar position as you, I decided to spend the extra on a nice headset instead of a radio for now. I'm spending most of my time with a CFI in the right seat or even on a solo I'm still VFR and in a semi-familiar area. If my radios fail, the worst case I go to one of the nearby non-towered airports where I don't need a radio, keep my head on a swivel (should be anyway), land, and call my CFI for help.

    That said, I will be getting one soon after I finish PPL and start doing longer trips on my own or going into the Bravo. Or at the very least before I start on instrument rating. I'm sure it's one of those things I'll only need when I don't have it, but you never know.

    Oh, and I meant to add...if you are not good at radio yet, go listen to LiveATC a lot. Find a busy airport, or even a regional approach. Doesn't matter what they are saying, just listen to the calls and interpret whatever directions are there. I started listening in the car instead of music or whatever, and my CFI was blown away at how sharp my radio calls got after just a little bit. Even little things like situational awareness comes so much more naturally where instead of noise in my ear I notice calls from other planes and things I need to be looking for now.
     
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  35. Skyrys62

    Skyrys62 En-Route

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    I've enjoyed having mine. Nice to hear incoming/outgoing traffic while in the hangar, waiting for friends to arrive, etc.

    If it dies I'll have something else to throw at the feral cat.
     
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  36. pmanton

    pmanton Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Some years ago I was giving a buddy a ride to pick up his plane after its annual. We had just taken off at night from a towered airport. I lost all electrical power and smelled smoke.
    I yelled for my buddy to take control while I rummaged in back to get my handheld. I was able to call the tower and we made an uneventful landing.
     
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  37. Sam Gordon

    Sam Gordon Pre-Flight

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    Stupid question...

    Could you use this while flying as a commercial passenger? Obviously not to transmit, but to listen to what your pilots are doing?
     
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  38. bluesideup

    bluesideup Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Hi Sam.

    Yes, I've done that a number of times. Many times after introducing myself to the crew and told them I was a pilot, and asked them if OK to use the radio, I was given all the freqs from the route by the pilots. I only do that on long flights.
    I typically give them the radio and my Radio operator permit / certificate just in case if the want to verify.
     
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  39. NoHeat

    NoHeat En-Route

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    Don’t need one.

    I get the latest WX with a phone call to the airport’s dedicated phone no.

    My plane has two radios with two batteries and two alternators. Not worried they’ll all fail.

    An IFR clearance is available immediately pretty much everywhere I fly.
     
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  40. Doug Reid

    Doug Reid Line Up and Wait

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    I have two...I sit outside in my back yard and talk to passing aircraft...:)
     
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