Plane & Pilot
Thursday, November 1, 2007

Handheld Avionics

Using portable gadgets to fly safer

handheld avionicsI’m sold on the concept that using portable avionics in the cockpit will make the flying experience safer and more convenient. As a flight instructor, I teach in aircraft with large differences in avionics, ranging from the latest and greatest in glass panels to ships with no radio or electrical system. Regardless, it’s always comforting to have my trusty Garmin GPSMAP 496 along for the flight to help with situational awareness and to have the latest weather at my fingertips.
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Handheld Transceivers
Icom A24: The Icom A24 navcom is a handheld radio designed for pilots. It can be used on the ground and in the air for communications and navigation. In addition to the VHF frequencies, it has the NOAA marine weather channels. The VOR navigation functions include a Digital VOR (DVOR) mode, which shows the radial to or from a VOR station, and a CDI mode, which shows the course deviation to or from a VOR station. You can also input your intended radial to or from the VOR station and show the course deviation on the display. Duplex operation allows calling on a COM channel while using VOR navigation. The LCD screen is backlit, as are the buttons. When used with a headset, side tone is available to hear your own transmissions. Unique to the Icom A24 is its Flip-Flop channel recall, which allows the pilot to scroll through up to 10 of the last frequencies used. It comes standard with a rechargeable NiMH battery, carrying case, headset adapter, whip antenna, strap and a wall charger. For more information, visit

Vertex Standard VXA-710:
This is Vertex Standard’s top-of-the-line navcom handheld. In addition to providing a VHF transceiver and VOR receiver, the VXA-710 also receives FM broadcast and NOAA weather channels. A CDI is available when using a VOR frequency. Split operation is supported for communicating with an FSS using a VOR to receive while transmitting on another frequency. With the dual watch feature, you can monitor one frequency, such as the ASOS for weather while still communicating with ATC on the priority channel. Any transmissions on the priority channel will mute the other channel you’re monitoring. The status LED indicates when it’s transmitting and receiving and acts as a strobe light when using the emergency frequency. The backlit display is 132 x 64. Constructed with a rugged die-cast magnesium case, the VXA-710 is designed to be lightweight and compact. A unique feature of the Vertex Standard handhelds is that they can be submersed in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes. The VXA-710 comes standard with a 1,400 mAh lithium-ion battery, a wall charger and a headset adapter. For more information, visit

Sporty’s SP-200:
Sporty’s offers its own handheld navcom, the SP-200, which provides up to 15 hours of service thanks to its long battery life and eight alkaline batteries. It comes with a five-year warranty, flexible antenna, removable wrist strap, battery case and instruction manual. The SP-200 has a backlit screen and keypad for nighttime operation. The SP-200 has a CDI display for VOR, as do other handhelds. Unique to the IC-200 is that it will display a CDI for localizer frequencies. A duplex COM feature supports transmitting to an FSS and listening over a VOR frequency. It sports a full-feature scanner (for the entire frequency range or selected memory channels). The SP-200 has 20 memory channels and supports 8.33 Mhz channel spacing (now required in Europe). The tough case will survive being dropped on the ramp. For more information, visit

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