Avionics radios are extremely important for the safety of any aircraft and pilot during flight operations. Aircraft radios allow for navigation during flight and establish two way communication with flight controllers and personnel. While most aircraft are designed with a panel mount radio for navigation and communication already installed, it is highly recommended to also have a handheld radio on hand for emergency purposes. Some aircraft also may not have panel mount radios installed, thus avionics handheld radios can be a cost effective entry to provide the radio functionalities needed for safe flying. Lastly, students can also benefit from handheld radios to train and familiarize themselves with radio communication. In this article, we will discuss avionics handheld radios, as well as important information on their types and components to help you familiarize yourself with them.
Typically, a radio may be a HF radio or VHF radio. HF refers to “high frequency”, and these radios may operate on a frequency anywhere between 3 and 30 MHz. The VHF radio, on the other hand, is one that is considered “very high frequency”. A VHF radio operates on a much higher frequency, ranging from 30 to 300 MHz. HF radio frequencies may be used on an aircraft in some cases, though VHF is much more common. This is due to VHF frequencies performing efficiently in open areas with a clear line of sight, thus proving beneficial for aircraft that are flying in high altitudes. Line of sight is an important facet of the transmission of signals, as a receiver that is out of the line of sight may not be able to obtain transmissions.
Handheld radios may also function as a navigation radio, and types of avionics handheld radios include COM/NAV radios and those that only are capable of communications. When a handheld radio is only capable of communications, its operating frequency range is often around 118 to 136 MHz. Meanwhile, those that are capable of both navigation and communication will operate with an additional frequency range of 108 to 117 MHz. Deciding between which type is best suited for your operations should be based on individual needs, as one may not need navigational capabilities if they are using a handheld radio for only emergency communication purposes. Handheld radios that include both communication and navigation may also be more expensive than communication only radios.
As avionics handheld radio components are not dependent on the aircraft electrical system, one should also take into consideration the battery life of the handheld radio that they are interested in before purchasing. Handheld radios that feature navigation on top of communication may spend their battery faster than a communications only radio due to their added functionalities. In general, the size of a battery can be determined by the mAh value, with a greater number denoting a larger battery capacity. While radios will drain battery the more they are used, many feature both alternating and direct current charging capabilities, thus they may be able to be charged within the aircraft if the option is available.
As discussed beforehand, there are many important uses of avionics handheld radios. For aircraft that already have a panel mount radio system, a handheld radio may serve as a backup. If a problem arose and you were unable to utilize your panel mount radio, a backup handheld radio can help you get into contact with an aircraft ground controller or provide other communications so that you can continue or end operations safely and without being completely alone. Some aircraft may not provide an installed aircraft radio as well, thus making it essential to procure equipment. Fitting your aircraft with a radio may be an expensive endeavor, and a handheld radio can be a solution to provide communication and/or navigation, all while saving money and avoiding the need for timely installations. Lastly, as students train to become a pilot, it is always important that they learn how to properly communicate on the radio for general operations and safety procedures. With a handheld radio, students can easily familiarize themselves with the functionalities and processes of radios and radio communication as they listen to pilot communication and responses.
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