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AOR, Ltd. of Tokyo, Japan, has announced the introduction of a new hand-held receiver that offers complete public service band coverage at an affordable price.
The new radio is extremely small, measuring 5-3/4" in height, 2-1/8" in width, and 1-3/4" in depth. Frequency coverage of the receiver is: 30-50 MHz, 118-174 MHz, 436-512 MHz, and 800-999 MHz.
This allows coverage of all the police, fire and emergency bands, plus the new services now available above 800 MHz in 12.5, and 25 KHz increments. A special top panel offset switch allows accurate reception of the 12.5 KHz off- sets used in some trunking systems in the 800 MHz range.
At only twelve ounces total weight the new model AR880 can be conveniently carried along in a pocket, with the standard belt clip, or in an optional leather carry case. A suggested retail price of $199 has been set for the unit, which includes two antennas and a stainless steel belt clip.
The unit uses four user-supplied AAA size batteries, either alkaline or rechargeable types. Front panel keys allow programming of the 20 channels. Memory for these channels is retained by a special internal lithium battery.
A pair of upper and lower limits for bands to be searched can be stored in separate search memory locations. Extra features include first channel priority, keyboard lockout, BNC antenna connector.
The new receiver marks the most aggressively priced model from AOR, which has heretofore been noted for its top quality continuous coverage receivers and ham radio equipment.
Chances are you've never seen a handheld navcom radio quite like this. The Yaesu FTA-550 Pro-X radio can transmit and receive on the full aviation frequency band between 108.000 MHz, and 136.97 MH dedicate, with dedicated scanning for comm and nav frequencies from an easy-to-read menu page on its LCD screen.
The FTA-550 also includes VOR and ILS navigation features plus NOAA weather band monitoring, making it an excellent emergency backup in the event of lost communications radios or other instrument failures.
When the FTA-550 receives a VOR signal, the display will automatically switch to the nav-band screen, which shows a CDI based on the received signal.
The radio can be programmed with up to 200 preset channels and quickly called up by selecting the station name. With the capability of using up to 15 alphanumeric characters per name, the FTA-550 allows for complete channel descriptions. The radio can be programmed on the user's computer with the included USB cable.
Two versions of the radio are offered: FTA-550L comes with a lithium-ion battery, 110-volt and 12-volt DC charger with cradle, alkaline battery tray, antenna, belt clip, headset adapter, and USB programming cable, while the FTA-550AA comes supplied with alkaline battery tray, 12-volt DC power cable and antenna, plus the belt clip, headset adapter and USB programming cable.
One of the best pieces of equipment I've added to my aircraft is a handheld transceiver. Now the handheld transceiver is about the size of a carton of cigarettes.
The portable transceiver, which used to be popular with some ferry pilots and FAA field workers, is about the size of a small briefcase and is made up of a standard aircraft panel-mount transceiver bolted into a case with a large battery pack and a speaker.
Then there are portables that are only attached to vehicles. The briefcase-sized portables were very vulnerable to radio thieves who wanted to break in.
But the advent of the handheld has remedied all that; now you can stick the transceiver into your pocket, or tuck it into a flight case, and it's there if you need it. In my case, the handheld is a TR-720 from Communications Specialists.
The 720 stands for 720 channels of communications, 200 channels of nav reception, the exact number that's on the fanciest panel-mount navcom you can buy at an avionics shop.
While it does not drive a VOR indicator, the nav frequencies come in handy for monitoring weather broadcasts, and for communicating with Flight Service Stations at remote sites.
I've had the TR-720 in service for one year. The only times it has failed to live up to its promise is when I've forgotten to put it on the 110VDC charger overnight before an intended use.
Communications Specialists has several solutions for that problem. For one, a cigarette-lighter-adapter allows the TR-720 to play off the 12V DC of the aircraft or car. (You can also operate it while it's on the 110VAC charger, too—it just slows the rate of charge slightly.)
Another is a desktop charger that you can keep the unit in and it will maintain the peak voltage. A fourth option involves battery packs.
Because the TR-720's battery pack can be removed or replaced with a twist-on procedure, it's possible to carry a spare, fully charged pack. Also, there is a pack with more cells in it that also will give extended operation time.
Frankly, the normal battery pack gives more than adequate service, unless you're going to use the TR-720 for long operation times. The TR-720 has a built-in microphone-speaker that works best in low ambient noise conditions.
It has limitations for effective use, and a noisy cockpit just isn't conducive to best operation. However, Communications Specialists has provided several options that can help here, too.
A remote speaker-mic, on a curly-cord just like a standard microphone, makes for easier operation because you don't have to hold the whole unit up to your lips or ear.
A small earplug speaker, such as those commonly used with small AM/FM transistor radios, is provided as standard equipment, and that works okay except in high-noise surroundings. However, noise-blocking is necessary for such conditions. So, an optional patch cord allows use of a standard aircraft headset.
If you use the noise-blocking type, you can get good, clear reception. Another limitation of the TR-720 is its signal reception range. Reception of transmissions from up to 40 miles away is normal.
However, transmitting is a different story; the TR-720 seems to reach out to 15 miles maximum air-to-ground, maybe 20 miles air-to-air. The standard unit comes with a flexible, quarter-wave antenna, called a "rubber-ducky" by the electronics people.
This antenna is virtually indestructible. However, to improve the range of the TR-720, a half-wave antenna is necessary (the ones mounted on your aircraft generally are half-waves).
So, if you plan to use one of these handy communicators, install an extra whip antenna with a BNC connector at the cockpit end of the lead-in. We've tried it connected to an ELT antenna and had results better than those with the standard flex antenna.
Like any radio, the TR-720 is sensitive to unshielded ignitions. When our transceiver was tested in a homebuilt Fly Baby, the aircraft's unshielded Continental 65 made reception virtually undecipherable. However, I've never had a reception problem inside my factory-built Spamcan because it has a shielded ignition.
When I removed one of the older transceivers from my 'Can to make room for a Loran C navigator, I thought I'd miss that second unit; I especially liked it for back-up or frequency changing when flying IFR.
However, now that I take the TR-720 along as my security blanket, I really don't miss the second transceiver. The TR-720 had a list-priced at $795 out of the U.S. importer. However, there are discount houses that are offering the units for as much as $175 off.
From our personal use standpoint, we rate the TR-720 a big 10 + ; it's easy to use, lightweight, has proved capable and reliable. What more could you ask?