10 Best Aviation Handheld Radios – Reviews & Buyer Guides
If you’re guiding an aircraft and not an alien plotting to invade the earth, you need a mode of communication in air. Cellphones are no useful up there, and you need a strong radio device to connect with your peers. Pilots and military officers frequently search for the best aviation handheld radios for this reason.
Now it’s a necessity for the navy, security and police offices, and the army too. The handheld radio holds an advantage over cellphones because they let you talk to multiple people all at once without any time limit. That’s why they’re in business and continue to add new features.
This article is dedicated to helping you choose the best right handheld radio for your trip in the air.
10 Best Aviation Handheld Radios Review
Aviation devices call for style, elegance, and convenience. So, if your company has told you to search for an excellent two-way radio, a lot’s riding on you! But we’re here to make your job a whole lot easier with this list.
1. Icom IC-A24 Handheld Nav/Comm
You’re not going to be the only one to use the radio. A lot of channels will be created. Icom IC-A24 thought of it and came with a flip-flop channel recall. It lets you store up to 10 channels. The front panel has a flip-flop button that allows you to choose and switch between channels effortlessly. It’s convenient and time-saving!
IC-A24 has ten banks, each holding 20 channels that make in total 200 channels. There is a dedicated 121.5 MHz channel button to send emergency signals. You can also hear the sound of your own voice with the sidetone function!
For emergencies, IC-A24 is an absolute savior. The VOR or Very High-frequency (VHF) navigation omnidirectional range allows you to detect and pinpoint the position of an aircraft. You can also recall a specific VOR channel to view their course and also get information about the routs, air traffic, etc.
This radio comes with a two-battery option, the Ni-Cd or Li-ion batteries. Both of these offer excellent battery backup. The wall charger is a DC power jack that lets you use the radio simultaneously with no issue!
Icom IC-A24 has a large keypad that’s visible and well labeled so you won’t have trouble dialing. It’s the backlit display and keypads that let you operate even in the dark. And the lights don’t turn off until you do it! Even in wet conditions, the radio works relentlessly, having water resistance.
2. Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner
How many channels do you want your scanner to capture? Well, how about 40,000? Yes, Uniden Bearcat BC125AT can tune in to that many frequencies. It’s made for not only aviation but also for the police, navy, construction workers, the military, pretty much for anyone who needs it!
But don’t worry, BC125AT isn’t going to leave you in the middle of a riot as it has features such as DND or ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode to eliminate any unwanted noise. Listen to only the channels you tuned with the close call RF capture mode.
Whenever you move to a new location, the frequencies and their intensities change, and it’s easy for you to get overwhelmed and lost. But with BC125AT, you can put ‘Alpha tagging’ on channels you want to listen to, even name the channels to find them later. This radio will save them into its storage.
Want to listen to stuff at random with BC125AT? Have it! This unit has preset memory for the most popular searches in your neighborhood. When duty calls, you don’t have time to tune in channels. Search in the presets to find out what’s going on in your precinct.
BC125AT is lightweight, portable, and comfortable to carry around. You can operate it in the dark because of the attractive orange backlight, making the display easy to read.
3. Yaesu FTA750L Handheld VHF Transceiver / GPS: GPS & Navigation
As far as handheld radios go, the prices can give you a heart attack, unless you’re buying them in bulk. Yaesu FTA750L is a budget-friendly product that has won over aviation experts and enthusiasts.
The display is intuitive, so you’ll be up and running with the new radio in no time. Its full dot-matrix display is large and simple to control. Using the icons on the menu certainly eases things up.
Yaesu FTA750L is here to take your GPS experience to the next level. This is a powerful GPS receiver that lets the user save up to 66 channels, that too, with exquisite details regarding locations. If you wonder what the red “121.5” buttons are for, it’s so that you can send an emergency signal.
Apart from the 66 channels, it also saves in a total of 200 channels in its memory. You can even save them manually. The easy recall feature also dials them back promptly. NOAA weather band monitoring lets you in on the latest developments and alerts regarding the forces of nature.
FTA750L has amazing accessories that take it above the other two-way radios on the market. The 1800 mAh Li-ion battery has a long lifetime. It also has a port for alkaline batteries and a lighter. Downloading its software can be done from any PC and installed easily with the cable.
4. ICOM A25C Handheld Airband Radio - Communication Channels Only
A handheld radio for Com channels coming with all the ICOM goodness! A25C is a powerful airband radio with expanded radio coverage. You have the option of changing antennas to get more coverage.
This is a radio that has got some of the best reviews. Its large flat keypad and 2.3-inch display are easy on the eye. The radio can also be used in the dark using the night mode. Even the keypads can be locked to prevent pocket dial. ICOM A25C also has a dustproof submersible body.
The 300-memory channel in 15 groups offers better storage and recall. Its Flip-flop recall will let you tune any channel you saved from its 10-channel list. You can select them using the channel knob or the dial pad. Love the sound of your voice? Hear it with the sidetone feature!
ICOM A25C comes with ANL (Auto Noise Limiter) feature to filter the weak signals and noise. It has NOAA weather alerts installed, so you’ll never miss out on a tornado watch. Keep track of the weather with the weather channels.
It has two power options, an external DC power jack or a 2350 Li-ion or AA alkaline batteries. The batteries can be recharged using the AC adaptor. ICOM A25C display gives you not only a low battery alert but also a detailed battery status.
5. ICOM IC-A25N VHF Airband Transceiver (NAV & COM channels)
ICOM IC-A25N is a powerful all-weather transceiver with an IP-57 rating. It’s water-resistant and can withstand pretty much any weather. So, if your job takes you in different terrains, this can be a perfect work companion. It is a worthy candidate for the title ‘best handheld radio for aviation.’
This one comes with a large 2.3 inches screen that’s user-friendly. The large LCD screen is easy on the eye, and the details are visible. Even if you stare at it for a long time, your eyes won’t hurt. IC-A25N has a backlit display to work in the dark. You can also read the screen in direct sunlight in the day mode.
Now for the science stuff. The VOR navigation is always a handy thing to have when you're in the air since it provides precise positioning. What sets IC-A25N apart is the Bluetooth positioning. You can program the navigation in your smartphone and immediately install them on the radio with Bluetooth.
Having a 10-group memory, each with 20 channels, IC-A25N can store 200 channels in total. You can also store flight plans and up to 300 waypoints in its memory. The battery this guy has is a 2350 mAh Li-ion that can power it up to 10.5 hours at a stretch. That’s a long time!
6. Yaesu FTA550L Handheld VHF Transceiver w/Li-Ion Battery
If you’re looking for a champion handheld transceiver at a great price, you’ve got to try Yaesu FTA550L.
First, let’s talk about positioning aids. FTA550L comes with a unique VOR and ILS (Instrument Landing System). It’s praised by pilots because of how accurate the landing guidance is. VOR provides better positioning of the aircraft, and ILS will let you land safely in adverse conditions with guidance signals.
Up to 200 channels can be programmed into the memory of this radio. These channels can be dialed back again using the recall. When you’re in the air, you need to keep watch of the weather at all times. FTA550L has NOAA weather alerts installed so that you can get weather updates when you’re in the air.
This handy radio comes with an antenna and headset adaptor, necessary features that make it a versatile handheld radio. The software needs to be downloaded before the operation from a PC or Laptop. After downloading, connect the radio to the PC to install them. Programming it all together only takes about a minute or so.
Use the cable for recharging the Li-ion battery that powers it. This battery has a long lifetime, but you also have the option of installing AA batteries to power it. The 110V will get the depleted battery up and running in no time!
7. Baofeng UV-5R Walkie Talkie Dual Band Two Way Radio Transceiver
The Chinese are long known for delivering impressive electronics at affordable prices. Baofeng UV-5R is an awesome walkie talkie that lets the programming in your hands. This radio has a dual watch, which means it can monitor two channels at once. You can listen to FM and receive important calls at the same time!
Baofeng UV-5R is super-efficient as it uses less power. The circuitry this guy has is programmed to amplify the signals; so, low or weak connections won’t halt the job. This radio comes with low and high-power mode. You can always switch to low power mode to save energy.
Moreover, Baofeng UV-5R takes connectivity very seriously. This radio has a wide frequency range for FM (65-108 MHz), VHF (136-174), and Ultra High Frequency or UHF (400-520 MHz). It also supports all the latest group tones such as CDCSS, CTCSS, and DTMF, catching updates from colleagues anytime, anywhere.
This guy has excellent features in its arsenal. It comes with 128 memory channels that you can program and give alphanumeric names to find them later. The 1800 mAh Li-ion battery goes on for a long time. UV-5R also has a charging stray, belt or wrist strap, key long to remove accidental dials, and lastly, a flashlight.
8. UNIDEN - SCANNER EZI33XLT - ALN026 - ALN026
If you become a fan of the Bearcat on our list, you’ll absolutely love this one. UNIDEN - SCANNER EZI33XLT - ALN026 has most of the brilliant features of BC125AT and then more.
This 100-grams radio comes with nine banks, each with 20 channels. These come preprogrammed; all you need to do is scan and start storing! It’s intuitive, so you won’t have any trouble using this radio if you are a beginner. The radio is easy to carry around because of its size.
Moreover, the scanning this guy offers is one of the key features. It can easily switch among five bands: low VHF, FM, Aircraft, VHF, and UHF. This lets you easily tune in when you change regions. Also, this radio can eliminate the interference of up to 60 dB.
EZI33XLT scans in 30 steps per scan speed. This amazing speed will let you get updated with all the latest developments in a jiffy! You can even control the searches as it’s being scanned, determine the ranges, boundaries of the scan, and jump to the next frequency.
Let’s get into the exciting functions. EZI33XLT has a 5-second delay function. There’s also the keypad lock, security lockout function, and the LCD is large and easily readable! The three emergency buttons are programmable.
9. ICOM IC-R6 Sport Handheld Wideband Radio Scanner
A good Handheld radio often breaks the bank. And then there’s ICOM IC-R6, a champion radio at a reasonable price.
To start things off, this short and sturdy radio is excellent at scanning. How you manage the tuning is entirely up to you. You can start tuning after pressing the band button on it. The squelch button will refresh the signal by removing the noises. There are keys and knobs for you to change the steps, maybe skip one or two.
Yes, a lot of people have complained that there is no direct entry keypad, but the scanning functions more than makeup for it. The lack of buttons also makes it easy to use, since you have to memorize the functions of fewer buttons.
ICOM IC-R6 has different scanning functions, which make it quite appealing. There’s the ‘full scan’ scanning the entire band. ‘Selected Band Scan’ searches the borders of the band. The ‘Programmed Scans’ lets you program the band yourself.
It has a tiny ferrite antenna for receiving AM broadcasts. But the small antenna offers a humungous radius of access. You can tune in to all the local channels without any difficulties. The rubber duck antenna is for receiving the SW broadcast, and the sensitivity is impressive as well. You can receive signals coming from miles away!
10. Yaesu FTA-450L Airband VHF Comm
Yaesu definitely stands out as one of the most reliable brands for handheld radios. FTA-450L is a com-only version of 750L, and 550L discussed above. That’s why this, too, has the Yaesu trademark Full dot-matrix high-res LCD that’s icon-driven. So, it’s easy to learn and operate.
However, Yaesu didn’t stop there! FTA-450L is an all-weather waterproof radio, having the IPX5 rating. Speaking of weather, never miss out on any alarms with the NOAA weather broadcasts that's automatic for emergency alerts.
FTA-450L has a book memory of about 200 channels and supports 15 alpha-numeric characters. The channels can be easily programmed by the PC and cable and named as you please. Quick recall functions can dial them back easily. The auto squelch functions filter the weak signals and noise, giving clear audio.
At this point, we all expect greater battery performance from every Yaesu. FTA-450L has an 1800 mAh Li-ion battery that can power the radio for 13.5 hours at a stretch. You also have the option of AA batteries in the battery tray. There’s also an AC wall charger in the box.
One of the many surprises that FTA-450L offers is the 800-mW audio amplifier, one of the loudest on the market. Even if you’re on a flight, you’ll never have trouble hearing the radio. The accessories also include a headset adaptor and a lighter.
What to Look for Before You Buy
You’re going to be using handheld radios at different times of your life for various purposes. Therefore, you have to watch out for a few things to choose the best radio for you. Here are a few key points you should definitely focus on.
Memory Presets and Recall Function
Memory is one of the main features of radios. It exists so that you don’t have to tune the channels again. Some radios have preprogrammed memory that saves channels automatically, some lets you program and manually save channels.
If the radio has a large memory preset, it should have a fast recall function. ICOM radios use flip-flop recall. There’s also alpha tagging the recall channels that lets you tune the channels quickly. You can’t ask for tuning time when you’re jumping into action.
In an aircraft, you need a strong GPS to precisely position the plane to locate their course or broadcast your own. VOR navigation offers this type of precise positioning. ILS navigation offers safer landing guidance. It’s always helpful if your radio has it otherwise.
Battery Options and Life
Most radios have multiple battery options such as alkaline or rechargeable Li-ion battery. If you can recharge in the middle of your journey, then the latter is the better option. In the end, it doesn’t matter much if your radio has both or one of the battery types if it has a long life.
Another handy function is the ability to charge your radio when you’re operating it. Otherwise, you’ll always have to plan when you’re going to use it.
The display matters if you use it for a long time. If it’s large, it’s going to be easy on the eye. An icon-driven display is always simple to use. Make sure your radio has a night mode for night flights. During the day, the sun overwhelms the light of the display. So, it needs to be extra bright so that you can read the display.
Handheld radios do tend to be costly, so you have to manage the budget if you want an overall good radio. Keep an eye for cheaper radios that’ll get the job done.
If the radio is NOAA certified, it’ll have its broadcast channels. In times of storms of tornadoes, they can save lives.
This is important because some radios require programming by a PC or laptop. When you’re downloading them, make sure the programs are compatible with the operating system of the PC.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions asked about handheld radios.
1. How far can the handheld radio transmit?
Usually, handheld radios are for local usage and can effortlessly cover 4-6 miles. Although radio companies offer more range and they do fulfill that claim. But with greater distances, you also have to consider the weather and signal strength.
2. Can I use it abroad?
Yes, the radio will scan and save the searches in the memory. But do check with the manufacturer, because some functions may not be available abroad.
3. Shall I get my Radio licensed?
The licensed version offers more secure connections and can unlock more functions. But if you are searching for a walkie-talkie for light usage, you don’t need it.
4. Shall I buy an analog handheld or a digital?
Digital radios have better range, reception, and sound clarity, so they’re the ideal choice.
5. What’s the difference between UHF and VHF radios?
VHF radios are ideal for outdoor usage, where there are fewer objects in the way. But if there are more objects in between, like in cities, buildings, or houses, UHF radios are ideal.
Handheld radios are one of the most useful tools for a pilot, navy, police, etc. Even if you’re lost in the woods, this thing can guide you home. There are a lot of options to choose from.
This article is intended to introduce you to some of the best aviation handheld radios. Keep all the features in mind when you’re buying your next two-way.