While it may seem like a bit of a niche market, the best handheld aviation radio actually presents plenty of value for a wide range of settings and people. Keep in mind, if a pilot is willing to trust a potential lifeline to a remote communication device, then chances are that your life is unlikely to throw it any curve balls that it cannot handle.
That said, the different potential uses for a handheld aviation radio extends well beyond the actual use of the product while flying an airplane. The same features, which make it an attractive option for a pilot are the same features that can make it a good option for anyone who needs to be able to keep a secure connection with the rest of the world while separated from it in a way.
- Best Handheld Aviation Radio 2018
- 1. Icom IC-A24 – Best Handheld Aviation Radio (Editor’s Choice)
- 2. Yaesu FTA550 – Best All-Around Value Handheld Aviation Radio
- 3. Yaesu FTA750L – Best Performing Handheld Aviation Radio (Editor’s Choice)
- 4. Rexon RHP-530 LITE – Best Price Handheld Aviation Radio
- 5. Icom IC-A14 – People’s Choice Most Popular Handheld Aviation Radio
- Best Handheld Aviation Radio – Buyer’s Guide
Best Handheld Aviation Radio 2018
Still, figuring out which is the best handheld aviation radio for you can be a difficult and confusing task. That is why we have put together a list of the 5 best handheld aviation radios, highlighting what each one does best. Then we provide a helpful buyer’s guide, so you can find the best handheld aviation radio to suit your needs.
|Product||Memory||Amplifier||BAT Life||BAT War||IP|
|200||700 mWh||23 hours||6 mo||X4|
|Yaesu FTA550||200||800 mWh||Variable||Variable||X5|
|200||800 mWh||25 hours||3 years||X5|
|100||700 mWh||18 hours||Unk||X4|
|200||700 mWh||28 hours||6 mo||X4|
1. Icom IC-A24 – Best Handheld Aviation Radio (Editor’s Choice)
Icom is by far one of the better brands that we saw on our list and have a history worth bearing a high-end reputation. With almost 5 ½ decades of experience, Icom understands what it takes to build the best handheld aviation radio and has brought all of that information to bear on the IC-A24 their flagship handheld aviation radio. That said, it is important to understand that Icom is not a company which specializes exclusively in handheld aviation radios though they do focus on various forms of remote communication. The Icom IC-A24 made our pick for the Best handheld aviation radio.
Icom IC-A24 comes with a fair number of features designed to ensure that you do not have to worry about it while in use. For example, this handheld aviator radio comes with a 2000 mAh LI-ion battery pack. It can be recharged as well as quickly switched out providing you with the ability to feel secure in your connection to the rest of the world whether you are thousands of feet in the air or on the side of a mountain. This battery should provide you with roughly 23 hours of continuous use. This best handheld aviation radio also allows you to adjust the gain on the microphone. So that your voice will sound loud on the other end of the line.
2. Yaesu FTA550 – Best All-Around Value Handheld Aviation Radio
Yaesu is one of the more venerable companies on our list with a storied history that stretches back almost 60 years. Even better, Yaesu has made it a point to specialize in radio equipment and other forms of remote communication. This focus has allowed Yaesu to figure out exactly what it takes to make the best handheld aviation radio. Even further, it has enabled the company to provide that for are levels of the handheld aviation radio market.
It is important to make sure that you have the proper antenna. Of course, sometimes even the best antenna will not be enough to ensure that you can properly hear the person you are speaking to. That is why the Yaesu FTA550 made sure to include an 800 mW amplifier. It helps to power the antenna and pick up signals that most other remote communication devices would miss. This amplification finds its existence acknowledged with the longest maximum range that we saw at 5 miles on a clear day outdoors. Finally, the Yaesu FTA550 uses a AA battery pack that is not rechargeable, so the expected battery life and warranty will follow whatever AA battery you purchase separately.
3. Yaesu FTA750L – Best Performing Handheld Aviation Radio (Editor’s Choice)
Of all the brands on our list, Yaesu is arguably the most reputable within their fairly small niche which is in a large part due to the fact that they are able to adequately serve all segments of their potential market equally and satisfactorily. While their less expensive option may be considered our best all-around value, if you are looking for a handheld aviation radio that is better than the rest, the Yaesu FTA750L made our pick for the Editor’s Choice Best Performing handheld aviation radio. In fact, this is also the most reliable with the longest battery life as well as the longest battery warranty.
The Yaesu FTA750L has to do more than provide one of the best navigation systems we saw. It must also perform the other tasks of a radio better than the rest of the competition as well. Thankfully, the 800 mW amplifier attached to the Yaesu FTA750L antenna provides plenty of additional power to pick up the faintest of signals. This handheld aviation radio is tied with for the best range on our list at 5 miles on a clear day outdoors. When you also consider that the display is also slightly larger than the other models, the choice is easy.
4. Rexon RHP-530 LITE – Best Price Handheld Aviation Radio
Of all the companies on our list, Rexon is the youngest, but that only gives you insight into the collective experience of the brands that we have reviewed especially considering Rexon has been in existence for over 45 years. That said, Rexon has not always been a manufacturer of handheld aviation radios and in fact, started as a manufacturer of power tools. Still, the company specializes in audio transmission technology, specifically of the remote variety. Though the focus is not explicitly restricted to an aviation segment of the market.
If the navigation features of the Rexon RHP-530 are not enough to entice you, the fact that this handheld aviation radio is the least expensive product reviewed. It also comes with a wide variety of additional features only makes this better. For example, this is actually the only handheld aviation radio on our list that comes with an optional Bluetooth connection. This can potentially allow you to control the majority of the radio without even having to bother looking at the Rexon RHP-530. Finally, if you are looking for a commonly used channel while you scan through the other frequencies, the Rexon RHP-530 comes with a one-touch recall button. That said, the battery life is shorter than for most of the other aviation radios we reviewed and do not seem to have a warranty on their battery.
5. Icom IC-A14 – People’s Choice Most Popular Handheld Aviation Radio
As one of the reigning leaders in the handheld aviation radio manufacturers, it should not come as any sort of surprise that the somewhat less expensive Icom IC-A14 is the people’s choice most popular handheld aviation radio. When you consider the fact that the Icom IC-A14 has virtually all of the same features of the flagship Icom IC-A24 at a sizably smaller price point. It is a no-brainer as to why people would prefer the Icom IC-A14 to most of its competitors.
While the ostensible purpose of a handheld aviator radio is to use as either a navigation tool or communication device while flying an airplane, their incredible reliability has made them popular tools for use in general where remote handheld communication devices are indicated. In this regard, the Icom IC-A14 only further cements that reputation as the 2000 mAh LI-ion battery pack. It ensures that you can take this handheld aviation radio wherever you want without having to worry about it dying on you in the field. One thing to watch for is the battery which only offers a 6 month warranty, though it does have the longest expected battery life at about 28 hours.
Best Handheld Aviation Radio – Buyer’s Guide
While this is not a standard feature on every handheld aviation radio, its inclusion is by far one of the best things that can be a part of your handheld aviation radio. Keep in mind, an amplifier will not actually help you better transmit audio over a handheld aviation radio as that power setting is legally limited to 5 W of power maximum.
Instead, manufacturers will sometimes seek to work around that obstacle by going the other direction and boost their handheld aviation radio ability to pick up audio signals. The antenna of the handheld aviation radio is being amplified to make it more sensitive to fainter signals. It also can create plenty of other problems without certain features to offset the increased sensitivity.
Most of the time, manufacturers do not actually bother to mention the range of their handheld aviation radio. Because it is more or less assumed that, based on the wavebands used. The range is physically limited to a certain maximum. There are plenty of ways that manufacturers can boost different aspects of their range especially in regards to the reception.
There are a few ways to boost the perceptible transmission range, even if the hard legal limit and environmental factors ultimately limit it further. If your signal can reach a given distance, that does not necessarily mean that the recipient can understand what your message says. In this instance, the manufacturer would apply hardware or software to ensure that the signal remains as true as possible.
Considering the intended applications of a handheld aviation radio, this factor is often a bit more important than what some might otherwise suspect when compared to other pieces of equipment used while outdooring.
Whereas for some pieces of equipment, weatherproofing is simply a nice addition or bonus feature to increase its versatility. The handheld aviation radio is intended to be used in adverse climates as a standard feature. So some form of weatherproofing is to be expected though specific handheld aviation radios can be tailored for different settings that do not require any meaningful weatherproofing. Regardless, the weatherproofing rating system for handheld aviation radio is on an IPXX scale where the higher the number. It is better the weatherproofing up to a point where the handheld aviation radio could potentially be held underwater up to a depth.
The type of transceiver that a handheld aviation radio uses will have a great deal of impact on not only what band waves that your handheld aviation radio provides you access but also which functions you are able to do in return. For instance, not all transceivers will allow you to actually send audio signals. It makes those specific handheld aviation radios a listen-only option. There are a few different transceivers depending on how many different major bandwidths you want to have access to.
The two most common bandwidth ranges involve the COM and the NAV channels through the NOAA and a select few other emergency broadcast bandwidths are also available for various handheld aviation radios. Keep in mind, when you are selecting a handheld aviation radio, this single component. It will likely cost more than any of the others in terms of increasing the overall cost of the handheld aviation radio. That said, it is also the one most worth investing in.
The primary function of a handheld aviation radio is to either provide or assist in navigation, which means this feature is by far one of the more meaningful compared to products without it. That said, virtually every handheld aviation radio will come equipped with one form of navigation or another and can actually have multiple types of navigation installed. Still, almost all handheld aviation radios will at least have access to VOR navigation. It makes use of the VHF waveband to track your position.
On top of the VOR, there are plenty of other features, like CDI, which can make navigating even easier. Finally, some of the most advanced handheld aviation radios even come equipped with GPS systems. It is by far the most ideal solution for navigation considering and an accurate assuming your handheld aviation radio service remains active.
Considering a handheld aviation radio is intended to be used as a backup, emergency device. The battery suddenly becomes one of the most important qualities. This is because there is a good chance that your handheld aviation radio will sit dormant behind the seat in your cockpit or secured to the side of the plane. Either way, you are not likely to think too much of it until you need it. In which case a poor battery will make that too late. As such, it is important to look for the batteries with the longest expected continuous battery life as well as what kind of warranty the company provides for their batteries.
As we can see, different people will demand different things from their handheld aviation radio and thus no single product can possibly be the best handheld aviation radio for all people. That said, there are still some handheld aviation radios that stand out a bit above their peers while others can potentially serve best in a bit more of a specialized setting to best make use of its strengths.
If you are looking for a handheld aviation radio that can pretty much do it all, then we recommend the Yaesu FTA750. Aside from the fact that this handheld aviation radio is tied on our list for having the longest range at 5 miles outdoors on a clear day. It also comes with the strongest amplifier for its antenna at 800 mW. It is the only handheld aviation radio that offers GPS navigation.
Of course, not everyone will need their handheld aviation radio to provide the best out of every feature. Sometimes you can find that products cross settings, and for someone who simply needs to maintain contact with a home base, we recommend the Icom IC-A24. With a long-lasting battery pack, amplified antenna of its own, and numerous transmission cleaning features. This is the clearest handheld aviation radio we saw.