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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?
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.
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 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.
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?
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.