It’s been about a year now that I have been the owner of a Yaesu FTA-550 Handheld VHF Transceiver radio. I thought with some extended use and an Oshkosh trip under it’s belt it was time to give the handheld a fair review.
To begin with, I started my aviation radio journey back when I first got into aviation by purchasing a Gleim KA11AIR Aviation Reciever. It is probably good that they don’t really sell it anymore because in all honesty it was pretty crummy at picking up practically any aircraft transmissions. There was no squelch which made anyone go insane after 5 minutes of hearing the hiss of the radio frequencies continue.
After that radio pissed me off enough, I finally upgraded to a slightly more expensive receiver that had a squelch (woohoo no hiss!). It was an off brand receiver that some guy sold me while I was walking through Oshkosh exhibitor hangars one year. It worked decently and definitely provided me the fix I needed when at Oshkosh listening to aircraft land and depart. With time and use however it quickly wore out like any off-brand electronic device would.
This is when I began my search for something more advanced that could serve many purposes and last a much longer while.
I was on a budget as always and so I wanted to make sure that my aviation transceiver was a good pick this time.
I began searching for the various brands I came to know mainly being ICOM & Sportys. Now they both make great products don’t get me wrong, but I heard there was a new Yaesu kid on the block and it was coming in at a price point that I could handle.
Obviously I am talking about the Yaesu FTA-550 Handheld VHF Transceiver . Coming in at a low price range it was the perfect choice for me.
The FTA550 came in at a price point that screamed “Hey Ian, this is worth looking into”.
I did some additional research and finally pulled the trigger on purchasing the Yaesu handheld. A few days later I unwrapped it and started playing around with it.
Let’s get a bit dirtier with the review…
Build & Quality
When it comes down to how the transceiver feels, I have to say I am extremely surprised by the thick what I can only assume as the plastic shell it is constructed in. It feels sturdy in your hand and you can tell it will last you a long while.
Features & Settings
On the outside, as you can see pictured is your standard number pad, emergency hotkey, and some menu items. On the left side, there is a “DATA” USB port, an EXT DC port, and a MIC/SP port in case you need to use those for certain reasons. On the left side is your standard push-to-talk button (PTT), Power button, and Squelch button. You control your volume and squelch with the dial at the top of the transceiver.
The antenna is removable and I find that it comes off a bit too easy but it’s a minor thing that really doesn’t matter. Just make sure you don’t lose it by accident because of this.
I will say as well that the backlight on the screen is very bright which is great for seeing in sunny days. Good job Yaesu 😉
Things I don’t care about that it does
Apparently when the Yaesu FTA-550 picks up a VOR frequency it will automatically switch to NAV frequency and a CDI will show up tracking whatever VOR it is. I have no clue why I would need or trust this feature so this falls in my things I don’t care about but has portion of the review.
Battery Life of the Yaesu FTA-550 Handheld VHF Transceiver
From a battery standpoint, I purchases the model where I am required to put in AA batteries to make it work. It takes 6 AA batteries and the lifetime on one set seems to be pretty good. Obviously it greatly depends on the amount of transmissions it goes through an idle time for how long it will last on one set of batteries. I will say that when it says the batteries are low, I would hesitate changing batteries until it dies. It seems to be lasting me quite a while on “zero” battery.
Yeasu does offer a lithium ion rechargeable battery option or add-on, but at the time I wanted to stay cheap and it hasn’t totally killed my wallet yet in battery cost. (I will keep you informed).
From a sound and volume perspective, the Yaesu FTA550 is very loud! I typically keep it on the lowest setting and it is just loud enough to enjoyably listen to traffic. This is a good thing, I am glad it is loud in case while flying with it I need to use it in a noisy cockpit during an emergency.
So my final say on the Yaesu FTA-550 Handheld VHF Transceiver would be that it is a great value. It is way higher quality than I ever had expected for the price and the functionality and durability of it makes me wonder why some of the other options on the market cost a bit more. I probably have a list of about 5 of my favorite aviation products that I own and this would make the list alongside my Lightspeed Zulu headset.
If you’re looking to purchase a handheld I would highly recommend this one! Still not sure? I also compared some of the other awesome brands in the handheld space so be sure to review that article too.