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The Best Aviation Handheld Radios for Pilots (2019)

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Making radio calls often causes stress and discomfort to student pilots, listening to ATC conversations can be a great help to improve your own radio skills. Also for safety, a handheld radio can provide a great backup in case your aircraft radio fails or on the ground when walking around at an airport.

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When looking for a handheld aviation radio, there are a few factors to consider and look out for:

  1. Receiver/Transceiver: This might speak for itself, but always look out for the very cheap radios; they are usually only receivers which you can only use to receive radio messages. If your only intention is to listen to ATC conversations, a receiver would do the job. If you're really looking for a good handheld alternative to your aircraft's radio, a transceiver is what you need.
  2. Comm/Nav: Most radios are sold in two different models. The inexpensive model is usually COMM-only, with the more expensive one also offering navigation functionalities. This nav function is usually able to track VOR's and even ILS, and could be helpful as a backup when flying IFR.
  3. Batteries: Most handheld radios are equipped with a rechargeable Li-Ion battery. This has the big advantage that they last very long and can easily be charged without replacing them. Some radios also have a battery pack that use AA-type batteries, this requires a little more attention from your side to always carry spare batteries and replace them on time.
  4. 25/8,33 kHz: If you're flying in the EU, this is something very important to keep in mind. Since 2018, EU regulations have changed the spacing of the frequencies to 8,33 kHz, meaning for every single old frequency, there can now be three new ones. As a result, EU pilots are required to use radios that have the 8,33 kHz, making the 25kHz radios obsolete. Make sure to keep this in mind so you can operate your radio legally inside the EU and potentially other countries that will follow.

The best aviation COMM-only handheld radios

Yaesu FTA-250L

At a price point of just below $200, the Yaesu FTA-250L is the cheapest aviation transceiver in the list. This Yaesu  radio is an extremely affordable, compact (comm only) airband transceiver. Featuring an extremely rugged Polycarbonate housing with an IPX5 Waterproof rating for use in harsh environments with rain, splash and spray. Loud 700mW audio output guarantees that radio calls will not be missed even in noisy environments.

The FTA-250L is 8.33kHz Narrow Band capable, with a huge programmable 250 channel capacity memory bank.

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$197.92

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Yaesu FTA-250L Handheld VHF Airband Transceiver (COMM only)
Last update: 05 August 2019

Icom IC-A6

The Icom IC-A6 is a COMM only transceiver featuring a large, rubber keypad and easy to read display for one-handed operation in the cockpit. Backlit keypad and display stays on until you turn it off—helpful for night flying. Flip-Flop channel recall function stores the last 10 channels used for instant switching.

The A6 is a little bigger model compared to the previous transceivers, but is very robust and a geat choice. Good to note is that it is now also 8,33 kHz ready for use in the EU.

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$305.05

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Icom IC-A6 Radio (COMM only)
Last update: 05 August 2019

Yaesu FTA-450L

The Yaesu FTA-450L is a competitively priced (COMM-ONLY) version of the wildly successful FTA-550L. Featuring the same Easy To Operate icon-driven menu system, on a large 1.7" x 1.7" Full Dot Matrix Display. The same Loud 800mW internal audio speaker guarantees calls will not be missed.

8.33 kHz Narrow Band compatible, with a programmable 200 channel memory bank, means all favorite channels can be easily stored and retreived with just a few button presses.

Valued packaged with all the necessary accessories, including 110VAC and 12VDC chargers, headset adapter, Alkaline battery tray, Belt Clip, USB programming cable, and a large capacity 1800mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery.

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$231.93

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Yaesu FTA-450L Airband VHF (COMM only)
Last update: 05 August 2019

Icom IC-A25C

The Icom IC-A25C is a powerful air band COM handheld with 6 watts of power and an IP57 waterproof rating; weather cannot stop these radios. The handheld transceiver includes a large 2350mAh Li-ion battery, providing a long operating time. The easy-to-use interface and large 2.3-inch LCD display combine to provide stress-free programming and in-flight operation.

This new Icom model IC-A25 is 8.33kHz Narrow Band capable.

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$409.98

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Icom IC-A25C VHF Airband Transceiver (COMM only)
Last update: 05 August 2019

The best aviation COMM/NAV handheld radios

Icom IC-A24

Simple one-handed operation is the most essential feature of the IC-A24. The well labeled, large keypad provides user friendly operation. The large display shows both letters and numbers and is easy to see, making for fast frequency recognition. The display is backlit, and so is the keypad. The light stays on until you turn it off – a very handy feature for flying at night.

The IC-A24 has VOR navigation functions. The DVOR mode shows the radial to or from a VOR station and the CDI mode shows the course deviation to/from a VOR station. You can also input your intended radial to/from the VOR station and show the course deviation on the display. In the USA version, the duplex operation allows you to call a COM channel, while you are using VOR navigation.

Just like the A6 model, the A24 is also 8,33 kHz ready.

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$299.99

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Icom IC-A24 Handheld radio (NAV & COMM)
Last update: 05 August 2019

Yaesu FTA-550L

The Yaesu FTA-550 is packed with features, yet very affordable. With an oversize full dot-matrix LCD display, the FTA-550 Airband Transceiver provides full communication on the Aircraft communications Band and additionally provides VOR and localizer navigation features on the "NAV" band. The FTA-550 includes NOAA weather band monitoring and the capability of programming up to 200 memory channels with a quick and easy channel recall feature.

Just like its comm-only brother, the FTA-450L, it is 8.33 kHz Narrow Band compatible.

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$286.94

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Yaesu FTA550L Handheld VHF Transceiver w/Li-Ion Battery
Last update: 05 August 2019

Icom IC-A25N

The Icom IC-A25N is a powerful air band NAV-COM handheld with 6 watts of power and an IP57 waterproof rating; weather cannot stop these radios. The handheld transceiver includes a large 2350mAh Li-ion battery, providing a long operating time. The easy-to-use interface and large 2.3-inch LCD display combine to provide stress-free programming and in-flight operation. The A25N NAV/COM version also features built-in Bluetooth, GPS and VOR navigation.

Nav functions:

The simplified waypoint NAV guides you to a destination by using current position information from GPS (also GLONASS and SBAS). The waypoint NAV has two functions: Direct-To NAV and Flight Plan NAV.

Using the RS-AERO1A (Android) or RS-AERO1I (iOS) application, you can make flight plans on an Android/iOS device and import the plan into the IC-A25N via Bluetooth.

Just like the IC-A25C model, the Nav version is 8.33kHz Narrow Band capable.

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$443.98

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Icom IC-A25N VHF Airband Transceiver (NAV & COMM)
Last update: 05 August 2019

Any questions about handheld aviation radios? Have a good/bad experience with any of the models above? Shoot us a message!

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