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Handheld VHF for comms backup

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Handheld VHF for comms backup

Old 9th Mar 2020, 09:08
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: 5Y
Posts: 428
Handheld VHF for comms backup

I often hear people talk about carrying a handheld VHF as a backup if you should have a problem with your radios.

Has anyone here ever tried it?

I tried the handheld while flying the other day, I have no idea if I was heard or not as the noise in the cockpit without my headset made it completely impossible to hear anything.

I do have a headset adapter for the radio, but it's fiddly and I was not about to attempt to install it while flying. I suspect that, useful though a handheld VHF is while on the ground, it is useless as a standby radio when flying.
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Old 9th Mar 2020, 09:29
  #2 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Uxbridge
Posts: 640
I've used mine a couple of times to good effect. Yes, noise is a problem, but some simple calls to get back on the ground are perfectly doable. It's a bit like using a hand held mike and the overhead speaker (showing my age there). Range is the most significant issue.

Best idea is to rig up the headset adaptors before flight, then all you have to do is swap over the two plugs. Must try to find time to do that...................
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Old 9th Mar 2020, 09:56
  #3 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Australia
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I've tried using mine once as a replacement for the main VHF (because it's an old model and the squelch is hopeless; it was annoying me so I switched to the handheld unit). That was with a headset adapter. What I found was that a lot of people immediately complained that my transmissions were garbled. I suspect that's a fairly common result when you use a fairly low-powered transmitter and stick your antenna inside a big metal box.

I imagine that if you had a way to wire it to the external antenna (or if you have a second external antenna wired for exactly this purpose) then it would work much better.

I still keep it in the plane as an emergency backup (and it's good for things like getting the latest weather information before starting the engine, communicating with people when you're not wearing the headset, etc) but I wouldn't use it as a fix for an annoying-but-not-critical problem in the future.
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Old 9th Mar 2020, 10:28
  #4 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2000
Location: SE England
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I’ve used them as primary comms for many flights with no problem, but normally with an external aerial. Sadly mine are 25kHz so only good for emergencies now.
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Old 9th Mar 2020, 11:05
  #5 (permalink)  
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This works very well

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Old 9th Mar 2020, 12:10
  #6 (permalink)  
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That looks nice, but unfortunately its not my a/c so that's not an option. When sailing we always carried a BNC-PL259 adapter so we could plug the handheld into the masthead antenna if necessary.

I guess that as Mr A says, it would certainly be worth fixing-up the headset adapter before flying.
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Old 9th Mar 2020, 13:11
  #7 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Central UK
Posts: 390
Why bother? Seems an expensive and unnecessary precaution to me.
In the highly unlikely event of a comms failure you simply revert to no radio ops. What's hard about that?
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Old 9th Mar 2020, 15:26
  #8 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Kingston, Surrey, UK
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I've used it twice, both times a long time ago in the USA. Once in Terminal Control Area of a large Internation airport, my single comms radio failed (some schools are real cheapskates with no transponder/2nd comms radio), ATC had me flying compass headings for posative ID, not easy with the background noise, but do-able. The other time was shortly after Take off, I used the handheld to get me back on the ground. Same problem with background noise, but it can be done. In my view, worth it, better if you can connect to an external aerial and have a headset connection.
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Old 9th Mar 2020, 15:42
  #9 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: UK
Posts: 320
Using your mobile to call ATC works really well especially through many of the Bluetooth headsets that are available.

Easy to carry a short list of ATC numbers.

Have used it with no problem

Best -
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Old 9th Mar 2020, 16:44
  #10 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Barbados
Posts: 385
I bought a ICOM a few year back - it stayed with my A&P for almost a year.

First time I had it with me was flying back from St. Barths after the annual - alt belt snapped - I did not notice as the radios (Collins with nixy tubes) kept glowing and my annunciator is not that bright - 60 miles out from Barbados seems to be where it happened - no answer when I tried to call approach - by the time I realised, I thought a ha the hand held so dug it out, by then I was about 35 miles - my transponder of course had gone off - seems I spoke with them just as they were preparing to call out the coast guard to go look for me.

It was very loud in the plane - but holding it too my ear I could make them out - uneventful after that, so yes it worked and probably saved me lots of grief - well worth having.

I tested it once at 5,500ft it worked out to about 45 miles.
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Old 9th Mar 2020, 17:42
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Join Date: Mar 2020
Location: Midwest USA
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Another Reason To Carry A Handheld VHF Radio?

I watched a video last night on YouTube [ since I'm new, I can't post the URL -- in [i]YouTube, just search for In The Hanger Dan Bass CO2 Crash ] recounting an experience Dan Bass had with CO2 poisoning... Near the end of the interview, I thought it noteworthy he mentioned a VHF Radio as one item he wishes he could have accessed in the aftermath of his crash [he apparently had one onboard, but in the crash, things in the cabin were tossed about quite a bit and he couldn't locate it.]. While trying to alert authorities of his survival and location, he discovered his cell phone didn't work and that created some unfortunate delays in his rescue. Dan said that having a radio would've enabled him to contact 121.5, and in doing that, he believed he would have saved some time in getting to a hospital. Food for thought, I suppose...

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Old 9th Mar 2020, 19:48
  #12 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Moray,Scotland,U.K.
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I've carried an Icom and headset adapter for over 28 years. I've used it several times. After a *Annual at Bagbie, the PTTs were misconnected and I used it for the flight to Inverness.
I upgraded to an 8.33, and in 2018 used it for a delivery flight from North Coates to Inverness, after buying an aircraft with no 8.33. The range of the new 8.33 Icom is much less than the 1991 one.
Using a mobile phone would be a problem with a busy airfield. I've had the telephone unanswered when trying to PPR at two airfields, one whose ATC are very helpful on the radio, and one "number not recognised" in the past two years.

Last edited by Maoraigh1; 9th Mar 2020 at 20:01. Reason: Add
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Old 10th Mar 2020, 06:22
  #13 (permalink)  
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Thanks all. I will try flying with pre-fitted adapters and try switching the headset over and test the performance, although that marginally reduces the usefulness of the handheld on the ground. It's true that loss of comms is not an emergency; I have simulated a 'no comms' approach and landing by prior arrangement with the tower. But given the busy environment I fly in, I would certainly cause disruption to ATC's sequencing and would presumably involve a lot of form filling after the event.

Ha! Just realized that makes the headset a single point of failure!

Last edited by double_barrel; 10th Mar 2020 at 07:08.
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Old 10th Mar 2020, 07:55
  #14 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: CYYC (Calgary)
Posts: 5,253
Using your mobile to call ATC works really well
Standard practice now in Canada. In the Canada Flight Supplement, emergency phone numbers are listed in the Comms section for towered airports.
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Old 10th Mar 2020, 09:28
  #15 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Tring, UK
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Yes. Having just been to TLV, the radio failure procedure says to call the tower on your phone and gives a couple of numbers...
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Old 10th Mar 2020, 12:58
  #16 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Lander, WY, USA
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If you fly at night, in the US, anyway, non-towered airport runway lights are operated by clicking your comm radio, usually on the traffic frequency. Handheld might be the only way to get lights on if onboard comm fails.
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Old 10th Mar 2020, 19:20
  #17 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2004
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I always carried a radio in my bag, twice it was useful following a total electrics failure; it was also useful for listening to the ATIS rather than power up an aircraft radio, especially if using a Hobbs meter. A backup is exactly that, a backup, a bit like a very pistol you don't use it too often, but when there is a need it can be very useful.
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Old 11th Mar 2020, 15:11
  #18 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2014
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Remember your ATC light signal charts

I've used that lamp on 3 occasions, relevant occasions that is (not just fumbling around with it for "fun"), and I'm not even that "old" in the tower work.
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Old 12th Mar 2020, 05:45
  #19 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: CYYC (Calgary)
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A long time ago, I was in a friend’s C140, returning to Springbank (CYBW) after dark. The radio had failed but the nav lights were working.

We joined the empty circuit and on final, looked for a light from the tower. No light so we went around. After two circuits, with no light, my friend decided to land anyway.

After we had shutdown, my friend called the tower. The tower guy was most apologetic. He saw us on the first approach and reached for the lamp to give us a green light. He explained that it had not been used for a long time and it fell apart when he took it off its hook!
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Old 12th Mar 2020, 18:16
  #20 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2003
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I carry an ICOM IC A16 B with Bluetooth that easily pair with my Bluetooth Headset. When pressing the PTT I can transmit with my headsetís microphone, it worked fine once I lost COMMs.
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