7-Sept-2017, 2217 Hours PDT
In this BLOG, I will detail my experiences with the Yaesu FTA-450L, which I really really dig. This transceiver satisfies my aviation ground ops; and, my PIC found this transceiver to excel in air:air ops with ATCs and the FBO or commercial airlines ground crew.
Legend: transceivers = hand-held aviation transceivers unless otherwise stipulated in this BLOG.
My fellow aviators use other brand transceivers, such as ICom, Sporty’s, and other models. I had the chance to interact with all of those brands, and I wasn’t impressed. Also, each of those transceivers had navigation features in them (e.g., VOR and ILS), and I WAS NOT interested in an aviation transceiver that had any navigation features. I ONLY wanted an aviation transceiver that had COMM (communications).
My flight instructor told me, “don’t waste your money on a [hand-held aviation] transceiver that has navigation features — you will seldom, if ever, use those features — stick with a [hand-held aviation] transceiver that only has the communications feature.”
In my experiences, my flight instructor was correct — all my fellow aviators have transceivers with built-in navigation features, and none of my aviator acquaintances ever used those navigation features built into their transceivers; hence, I purchased the Yaesu FTA-450L; and, I really dig this hand-held aviation transceiver.
I downloaded the programming software from Yaesu’s website. I entered all the frequencies I use, and I wrote it onto my FTA-450L, and I tested my code at SFO and at my San Francisco home.
SFO RF Test (Ground): 5-Stars:
At SFO, the RX and TX to my ground crew were crystal clear. My ground crew at SFO indicated my TX signal strength and modulation were clear and strong: S-9. This test performed as expected and no surprise with this result of my testing given the close proximity between me and my ground crew — within 1.5 miles.
Air-to-SFO ATC: 5-Stars:
As of today, 9-Sept-2017, @ 1300 Hours PDT, my PIC tested the FTA-450L in the air with SFO, SQL, and OAK ATCs, and the FTA-450L excelled in its performance. It was loud and clear without the head-set during ground ops; and, worked well with the head-set in the air. The air distance overage was well over 15 nautical miles, and the RX and TX modulation and signal strength were strong and crystal clear. My PIC passed my transceiver with flying colors!
RF from my home in SF to SFO (Ground): 5-Stars:
RX Test From My Home: my home is about ~15 miles North West of SFO. Notwithstanding the distance and buildings, I could clearly hear SFO’s ATC directing aircraft in the Bay Area airspace. I could also hear the aviators on the runway waiting for take-off. I was outside of my penthouse, which is ~470 ASL with good LOS to the North, East, and South.
TX Test From My Home To SFO (Ground Crew): (Rating Not Applicable because this test result originates from the physics of RF and not the transceiver): my TX to my ground crew from my home was weak as expected: S-1 to S-2. My modulation was weak and couldn’t consistently overcome some of the fuzz due to the ground distance and building structures between my home and SFO — this test result was not a surprise and was expected — given the ground distance and buildings between my home and SFO — also, I was using the stock antenna.
RX Test From My Home (ground) To PIC 10,000 Ft AGL: 5-Stars: My PIC’s communication was “loud and clear.” Ten thousand feet AGL is just under two miles (1.89 miles) in the air. I can hear my PIC communicate with the various ATCs.
In-box Accessories: 5-Stars:
Yaesu is generous with their in-box accessories: 6x AA battery tray as an additional power source, 12-v vehicle charger, desktop charging cradle, USB programming cable, programming software (at the Yaesu website), belt clip, 1800 mAh Li-ion battery, and head-set cable adapters.
Battery Power: 5-Stars:
The Li-ion battery lasts a long time and has good sustaining power. I used the transceiver on the ground, RX only, for 13 hours; and, the battery, at the 13th hour, showed one bar left on the battery display; I don’t know the percentage of the battery drained for that one bar decrease; because, the transceiver doesn’t provide that information.
My PIC, on 9-Sept-2017, took my transceiver up of a 40-minute flight; and, did TX & RX in the air; and, the battery display still showed a full charge. When I used the AA battery tray for 8 hours on the ground, the battery display showed one bar of battery power left, which is the reason I do not recommend the FTA-550 (AA battery version) — AAs do not have the sustaining power for RX, TX, and scanning like the Li-ion batteries. The AA battery tray is definitely a good back-up option, but I would not want it to be my one and only power source.
Battery Display Indicator: 1-Star:
The battery should have a discharge indicator indicating the percentage of charge left in the battery.
Battery Cradle Charger: 1-Star:
The battery cradle CANNOT independently charge the LI-ion battery pack — it needs to be attached to the transceiver’s body. To me, this is not an efficient nor effective use of time and use of my transceiver; because, I can’t use the transceiver with my spare charged Li-ion battery pack while charging my drained LI-ion battery pack. The battery cradle should have been designed to cradle the LI-ion battery pack without having to be attached to the transceiver’s body.
The Programming Software is Easy-to-use; and, it comes with the driver to activate the programming USB cable.
This transceiver is made with quality, and it feels like it too — there is nothing cheap-feeling or cheap-looking about this transceiver. In the hand, it has heft and feels heavy duty.
One of the things I always do when I get a Yaesu hand-held transceiver, is change out the stock antenna and replace it with a better after-market antenna; because, stock Yaesu antennas that come with their hand-held transceivers, always suck.
Not with this transceiver — the FTA 450L’s antenna actually works well on RX and TX operations.
Also, I didn’t experience any antenna installation problems as mentioned by other owners. The stock antenna perfectly locked in — read the manual regarding the proper way to install the antenna.
It can be adjusted to overcome any competing background noises. The sound quality has a slight imbalance of high notes to bass — favoring the high notes; I understand this is part of the AM-nature; notwithstanding the AM RF nature, it isn’t detrimental to the quality aspects of communications. Modulation is clear and understandable.
I guess, after using Motorola hand-held transceivers, I’m spoiled by Motorola’s rich, robust, and balanced sound qualities in their hand-held transceivers.
Easy to control; but, the transceiver’s onboard software menu needs some adjustments — especially, setting up the scanning function; I eventually figured it out in the manual — that section could have been written better.
Front Panel Display: 4-Stars:
Greyscale images are ugly and dull — why not color? Notwithstanding my dislike of the greyscale display, it is functional and easy to read; it is a nice feature compared to other aviation transceivers that don’t have the FTA-450L’s front panel display.
I just took possession and custody of this transceiver today, 7-September-2017; so, I still have to evaluate it against time and wear; I believe it will be reliable in any arena and will wear well with time — after all, my other Yaesu HAM transceivers, mentioned herein, supra, have not failed on me to date.
I’m pleased with the its RX and TX power over distance in my gound tests; hence, I don’t anticipate any problems up-in-the-air. I will still test it in the air, and I will make updates to this review.
Customer Support: 5-Stars:
Yaesu’s customer support is awesome — Hi, Endaf, Scott, and Dave — you guys rock!
For my aviation-student use, this is the perfect transceiver for me. If you are unlike me, and want and use the navigation features in a hand-held aviation transceiver, then go with the FTA-550L or the FTA-750L. I would not purchase the FTA-550, which only uses the AA batteries — you can’t use a Li-ion battery with that model according to Yaesu. The battery tray is a great back-up; but, I definitely would not want it as my one and only power source — scanning and TX will quickly drain power in those AAs.
Check 6 and CaVU!
/s/ Alfonso Faustino