Advances in avionics don’t negate the need for old standbys such as a handheld transceiver for use in the unlikely event your digital panel goes dark, or simply to pick up Atis or a clearance before engine start. Sporty’s Pilot Shop’s handheld SP-400 navcom makes a worthy backup, providing more nav information than other navcoms in a package little larger than transceivers that offer only com functions.
Sporty’s calls the SP-400 “a complete radio stack in the palm of your hand,” and besides limiting users to one piece of the stack at a time, it lives up to its billing, most impressively in its ILS display. This is the only handheld navcom that provides vertical guidance information: input the localizer frequency and the SP-400 depicts the glideslope and course deviation indication (CDI) on the relatively roomy monochrome LED screen (1 5/8” x 1 5/8”) as it would appear on an HSI–with intersecting perpendicular bars–not with the pointing arrowheads that some handheld navcoms employ for nav guidance symbology.
Controls and operation are simple. The on/volume and squelch control knobs are on top, and the position of the push-to-talk switch on the left side makes it easy to operate in either hand. Simply input the six-digit frequency using the keypad and the station is tuned in.
Communication quality is loud and clear, both on the ground and in the air. Sporty’s said the transceiver has an 8- to 15-mile line-of-sight range, depending on the station type. Eight alkaline AA batteries provide five to 15 hours of operation, based on typical usage. The alphanumerics and nav display screens are clearly visible, even in bright daylight. But you won’t need it in bright daylight. You’ll need it on a dark, overcast day when things have gone south and you need emergency backup. Velcroed to your yoke, the SP-400 could be a lifesaver. The device sells for $399 at Sportys.com.