Portable radios are a fraction of the cost of panel mounted ones and offer plenty of features. Some of them can be connected to a headset, to the aircraft battery, external antenna and even an external PTT button. Given their price difference, what are the advantages of panel mounted ones? is it range? reliability?


William Dominguez

Views: 2059

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I'm using an Icom IC-A6 handheld radio in my aircraft. I bought the aircraft (CH701) a year ago with this radio. It has an external antenna, stickmount PTT, and uses aircraft battery power. It works well with two headsets, and aircraft intercom is also good. The reception is incredible, I guess due to the whole aircraft being the groundplane for the antenna. The transmission range is also more than adequate. I've had no problems.



William - I would advise a panel mount if you intend to communicate frequently with ATC.


Is there a reason why.

I have a Icom 200A and flying in Class C and B you have a minimum of monitoring the local traffic. I find my panel is clearer and has a great deal more range than my portable (Sporty's model). I have discussed this issue with a couple of radio shops in my area and they highly suggested panel mounts ; something about connection integrity. Its been a while since I talked to them I fly alot of trips where I visit different airports and it is good practice to call 10 - 12 miles out to state your intentions to the local traffic. Some handhelds don't have that capability. However, if you fly local Class C untowered and don't visit many airports the handheld is probably sufficient. Communication with local traffic should not be under-estimated.


I have a ICOM A6 in my CH601HD. I have an external intercom. No problems with the transmission or reception, external mounted antenna - great range. I have the ICOM A210 panel mount in my CH750. The ICOM A6 requires external battery charger, ICOM brand headset adapter, ICOM branded push-to-talk, external mounted antenna for decent range, and external intercom for cockpit communication. By the time you add all these options required to make the ICOM A6 operate like a panel mount A210 you pretty much have the cost of the panel A210 spent. The ICOM A210 is $900. Great radio easy to read in bright sunlight, operate frequency selectors with gloves on (winter), great built in intercom (no need for seperate audio panel), monitors 2 frequencies at the same time. In the long run I personally prefer the panel mount A210. I also carry a spare ICOM A6 hand held in my flight bag so basically I have 2 radios in both my CH601HD & CH750. That is my 2 cents.


I am using an older Icom A-4.  I have it wired through a panel mount Sport S-200 intercom with head phone jacks on each side of the panel and have a push to talk switch on the stick.  It is a nice clean looking installation.  I have a good external antenna.  I have not figured out how to wire this radio to the aircraft battery.  I have to charge the nicad radio battery every 6 hours.  Both the radio and the intecom work great.


Tim Delf

Hey Tim,


Have you tried just using a cigarette lighter adapter with a power cord?  Seems like an easy way to do it.




The manual for the Icom A-4 says the radio has to be turned off while charging.  I have looked at an Icom cigarette lighter power cord and it says it is for charging only and the radio has to be turned off.  I do not know enough about radios to know if it would hurt the radio or if there is not a noise filter when plugged in or what their reason is.  Does anyone here know?

Tim Delf


I have an A24. The manual says to switch of the radio when charging. The product brochure however says you can operate the radio with any charger (wall or car) and if the battery is istalled it wil charge the battery while the radio is in operation.

What might happen is that the battery will not be charged completely. On the other hand some chargers may deliver enough current to charge the batteries but not enough to operate the radio (hence the warning "for charging only").

Just a cigarette lighter adapter wiht a power cord like Bill suggested is destructive. The voltage applied must be limited to 11.5V !!! So a voltage stabilizing device must be included because the planes generator voltage is higher (up to 14.5V) .



Charging and connectivity are probably the two big issues. Hand held radios sometimes have difficultly being connected to aircraft power, as others have pointed out.

The Coaxial fitting on top of a hand held doesn't really like being connected and then reconnected many times, which it's tempting to do. That is, it's tempting to remove the radio from the aircraft when it's not in use. That tends to wear out the connector on the cable to the antenna, if not the connector on the radio.

Someone should really tell radio manufacturers (both hand held and panel mounted) that BNC connectors are really not a good choice for rf connectors. They tend not to have good, repeatable, connectivity. A TNC connector, which screws on, would be a much better choice. It would have a much better, and more repeatable, impedance match.

Newer panel mount radios also often let you use the audio amp in the radio for other things, like an intercomm, or an audio panel. Conversely, panel mount radios tend to cost a lot more than portables.But some portables incorporate VOR frequency coverage and display, while this is rare in a panel mount. The down side to this is that you can't communicate while using the VOR feature.

I don't consider range an issue for handhelds. While at about 3,000 feet, and using an antenna mounted on the outside of the aircraft, I was talking to another aircraft at a similar altitude, about 150 miles away. It really doesn't take much power, if it's properly coupled to the antenna, to communicate. A sensitive receiver is of greater value.

If you are building your own aircraft, there is nothing that requires you to have a radio installed. That means  the cost of the radio doesn't count against the overall cost of the aircraft, for which you almost certainly are going to get a bill for state sales tax.

What do I plan to do? I have provisions to use a handheld that I've owned for years. It won't be present when I call the FAA or DAR. I'll put it in later, when I need the capability. There is a blank spot in my panel, where I intend to eventually install a panel mount radio - when I have the money. Ditto for a transponder and a few other goodies. I have 40 fours to fly the aircraft before I need to think about those things.


New from Zenith:

Zenith Planes For Sale 

Classified listing for buying or selling your Zenith building or flying related stuff...

Custom Instrument Panels
for your Zenith

Custom instrument panels are now available directly from Zenith Aircraft Company exclusively for Zenith builders and owners. Pre-cut panel, power distribution panel, Approach Fast Stack harnesses, Dynon and Garmin avionics, and more.

Custom Upholstery Kits for your Zenith Aircraft:

Zenith Vinyl Upholstery Kits

Zenith Apparel from EAA:

Zenair Floats

Flying On Your Own Wings:
A Complete Guide to Understanding Light Airplane Design, by Chris Heintz

Builder & Pilot Supplies:

How to videos from HomebuiltHELP.com

Developed specifically for Zenith builders (by a builder) these videos on DVD are a great help in building your own kit plane by providing practical hands-on construction information. Visit HomebuiltHelp.com for the latest DVD titles.

Aircraft Insurance:


West Coast USA:

Pro Builder Assistance:


Transition training:

Golden Eagle Aviation

Pianosa Flying Farm

Aircraft Spruce & Specialty for all your building and pilot supplies!

© 2021   Created by Zenith.Aero.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service