short radio summary

Lots of good reasons to always fly with a radio, including emergency help in places where cell coverage is spotty, and finding out about changes in the weather before launching or while in flight. Many thread on the topics already but this is a short summary of info on those prior postings.

A good inexpensive radio is the BaoFeng UV-5RA. About $26 shipped on line. They are legal for us to use on the USHPA frequencies if an instructor gave you the USHPA radio test. It is illegal to modify a radio but the Baofengs don’t need to be modified. Key thing about the UV5RAs is that they have LiPo batteries that last a long time. Most of the antennas they come with are poor, but they work and you can buy a really good antenna for the for another $25 (search for a thread on antennas). Some of us have cloning cables that can copy the pre-programmed settings on our radios to new BaoFeng radios in less than a minute making setup easy. For PGs you can get a hand held mic option that works as an inexpensive Push To Talk (PTT) alternative. For HGs and PGs looking for a PTT, Baofengs connector is the same as Kenwood radios so look for Kenwood PTTs.

NOTE: USHPA use is Secondary on our frequencies. These are Business band frequencies and they have priority use on them. At Lookout and Boulder we use the worst frequency for radio and antenna efficiency (158mhz).

It is best to get a HAM Radio license so you can use these types of radios on the HAM frequcy bands as well. If you have a HAM license you have little to no risk of having a radio confiscated and the test is easy. You will be taking the test with pre-teen students who can pass it, but it does require some basic tech knowledge so it is best to find some free on line test prep sites to study for it. Then take the exam for about $15 and open up ways to use the radios with repeaters that get much better distance and reception if you go on that very long XC flight and land in the middle of nowhere.
One of many HAM test prep sites
Link to when and where to take a HAM exam

A few other radio setting items.

If your radio has TimeOut Timer setting TOT, 47 on Yaesu radios, TOT, #9 on Baofeng set it to On and either 15 or 30. That prevents blocking other transmissions when someone has a stuck mic. This is an important safety feature. If someone doesn’t have this set on their radio, shame them mercilessly until they program their radio.

If your radio has a bandwidth setting always set it to narrow. BaoFeng menu #5. That is the law in the US, and you radio works better in narrow band mode anyway.

If you have a step selection, BaoFeng #1, set it to the lowest setting like 2.5k. If you have the step too large you will be able to select some frequencies, but not others as your step between selections is too large.

Normally we use our radios without Digital Code Squelch (DCS) but for Lookout we use DCS. Note that this is a receive side squelch and that means it blocks signals unless the signal has an accompanying code such as the default 023. Problem is this does Not give you a sub channel or any more bandwidth. When you transmit with DCS everyone on the main frequency can still hear you if they have DCS off (default). Also while it will squelch your receiver if the proper tone isn’t detected, it does nothing to keep someone without the tone from stepping on and blocking the transmission of someone else transmitting with DCS but at a lower signal level. For some radios like BaoFengs you need to turn both transmit and receive DCS on #10 and #12 or it won’t work properly. It would be much better to use a frequency that had less chatter overall than to rely on DCS, but old habits die hard.

Thanks for the great info JJ and for posting it here so it can be found using a search and viewed by all.

Interesting summary of rule changes regarding handheld radios coming from the FCC: … more-23649

The last paragraph sounds like it could affect us?

OK but 2Watts of power is nowhere near as important as a good antenna and most FRS radios don’t have good antennas. Anyway to use the higher power GMRS radios you need and will continue to need an FCC license and they still aren’t that good for anything more than a mile or two away.

The radios are still about the same price as a Baofeng and the UV5RA has better power, range and band capability. Most importantly they work on USHPA approved frequencies whereas FRs/GMRS radios do not. IMO it is better to get a HAM license and a UV5RA for about $25 and have a lot more range and options.

BTW if you have a local radio station you like you can have your UV5RA tuned to that station while still in use as a two way radio for flying. The downside is that someone could start talking during a great song.