Buying an Aviation Handheld Radio

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jackhodgson
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Buying an Aviation Handheld Radio

Postby jackhodgson » Sat Feb 14, 2009 3:33 pm

I wandered into a cool pilot shop the other day and saw a display of nice handheld av transceivers. This awoke my urges about getting a new one of these, to replace my aged ICOM A22.

My questions for the forums are: What radios do you carry with you? What do you like about them? What do you dislike? What advice do you have for me?

Thanks in advance.

-- Jack

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Re: Buying an Aviation Handheld Radio

Postby JHWellington » Sat Feb 14, 2009 5:02 pm

I carry Sportys SP200 with the akaline battery pack. Receives well, but very limited transmission range. I am often told by the tower that they can't receive me well when I'm using the radio from the ramp to pick up my IFR clearance. I can't imagine what that means my range is in the air.

I've often wondered if it would do better with the Nicad battery.

John.
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Dave Higdon
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Re: Buying an Aviation Handheld Radio

Postby Dave Higdon » Sat Feb 14, 2009 5:56 pm

JHWellington wrote:I carry Sportys SP200 with the akaline battery pack. Receives well, but very limited transmission range. I've often wondered if it would do better with the Nicad battery.

John.


John -- Have doubts that a nicad battery pack would do much, though a more-modern pack might last longer...such a nickel metal hydride or lithium rechargeable; if you're using AAs, rechargeables that go 2500 mHa would cost less, long run...

What might really help is an external antenna connection -- unless you're using one already...than I'd check the Standing Wave Ratio on the antenna, and the antenna cables and connectors...

And FWIW, if you're on a good external-antenna hook-up, you'll carry farther in the air than on the ground...

-- Dave

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Re: Buying an Aviation Handheld Radio

Postby champguy » Sat Feb 14, 2009 7:24 pm

I use an ICOM A-3 with double A battery packs(Carry a spare) and and external antenna. It gets out fifty miles with no problem. With the rubber ducky antenna it reaches out about two miles.
I bought a new A-6 and didn't like it as well, although it would be fine on a belt clip for walking around. The problem with some newer radios is that they are packed with so many features you can get caught in one mode when you are trying to use another. Then you have to drag out the manual to get it all sorted out again. Also the newer smaller ones are not as rugged as my A-3. If you transmit while charging you can blow out internal wiring so you can't leave it pluged into a cigaret lighter and use it as a primary radio.
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Re: Buying an Aviation Handheld Radio

Postby Laminar » Sun Feb 15, 2009 8:32 am

Vertex VXA series. The first rugged handheld since the Motorola days. When the battery dies, you can still use it as a chock.

-Rick

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Re: Buying an Aviation Handheld Radio

Postby JHWellington » Sun Feb 15, 2009 9:50 am

champguy wrote:I use an ICOM A-3 with double A battery packs(Carry a spare) and and external antenna. It gets out fifty miles with no problem. With the rubber ducky antenna it reaches out about two miles.


That must be my problem -- no external antenna. I've read that you can add a BNC connector under the panel and hook it to either the COM2 antenna or the ELT antenna. Any advice on this?

If it can go to the ELT, I may have it put in when I convert over to the 406. Thanks in advance for the advice.
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Re: Buying an Aviation Handheld Radio

Postby Dave Higdon » Sun Feb 15, 2009 1:07 pm

Got a gawd-knows-how-old KX-99 that still weighs a ton, works as a tail tie-down anchor, gets out decent on its 1.5 watts with the rubber ducky...about three, four miles in the air from inside an aluminum cabin; have seen 'em get out more than 30 miles with an external antenna...and it's still a good choice...

Gets all 760 com and 160 nav channels; you can set and center on a VOR radial if you need to navigate; new battery packs are available...rechargeables can work in the AA battery pack, and the 2700 mHa AAs I've got last a long time...digital freq entry, X-mit lock-out, earpiece and mic jacks...there's even a headset adapter...pretty decent tech and durable -- lord knows, this one has a good two decades of being knocked around airplanes and flight bags and ultralights...cheap and plentiful...

FWIW...

Dave

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Re: Buying an Aviation Handheld Radio

Postby mdpilots » Sun Feb 15, 2009 9:31 pm

I bought a Vertex VXA-150 Pro V at OSH a few years back.

Unless Vertex has vastly improved the user interface, I don't recommend it. I chose the Vertex because of price, but regret not getting the comparable icom. Compared with the icom, the Vertex has a very complex UI and small screen. The keystrokes for the various functions and features are hard to figure out and are at times counter-intuitive. While you may adequately learn the UI if you use it every day, most pilots do not use their handheld that often. So being able to fish it out in flight and still know the basic keystrokes to go where you need to go is important.

Vertex didn't do well in this area. The UI was clearly designed by an engineer. I mean no offense to you engineers. Just leave it to us marketing guys to determine how to present your cool functionality to the customer.

My advice? Stick with icom, or something similar. Stay away from Vertex, unless you are an uber-engineer type.

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Re: Buying an Aviation Handheld Radio

Postby LimaBravo » Thu Apr 30, 2009 11:29 am

I use the VXA-300 Pilot III handheld. Love it. powerful 5 watts transmit, sturdy aluminum body, smaller easy to carry form-factor. I find the UI easy to use, and once you have it set up most features are controlled via the two top knobs!! When I am about 10 miles out, tower tells me I'm 5 and 9 most times. I have no provision to check external antenna set up.

Also like the fact that you can use your PC to set it all up and program the unit.

The coolest feature is when the unit is not receiving any traffic on frequency, or even scan mode, it basically goes into standby saving TONS of battery life. I really really like that feature.

Worth mentioning is adding "handheld proficiency" to your training checklist. Equally important as anything else, so I stay on top of my handheld features and how to use it. I like to take it to work to listen to local traffic, and play with the features it has.

Lastly, a good tip a friend shared with me: always turn the unit off in "direct entry mode", that way when you turn it on you just punch your freq and you are ready to go. (ie in a hurry to see why Air Force One is making a low pass over NYC).

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Re: Buying an Aviation Handheld Radio

Postby Vertolet » Sun Sep 20, 2009 11:18 pm

So Jack, did you ever end up buying a handheld radio? If so, which one? Your talk about it on the podcast got me interested, and lately I've been thinking since the aircraft I fly these days usually already have a GPS unit, a handheld Com might be more useful in the flight bag than a handheld GPS... plus there's always that urge to listen in on local traffic when I'm NOT flying! :)

I'm currently thinking of picking up an Icom IC-A24, which seems to have a decent mix of nav and com for a good price. Anybody have recommendations on that one?


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