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#42201 - 06/22/05 04:20 PM What is THE single best survival item to own?
KyBooneFan Offline

Registered: 06/19/05
Posts: 233
Loc: West Kentucky
Some time ago I read about a hiker that had fallen on the side of a mountain and was disabled from an injury. He had a cell phone but no signal. So.............he pulled out his aircraft transceiver, got on the emergency frequency of 121.5 mhz and hailed a passing FedEx jet. He gave the pilot his position from his GPS and requested the pilot notifiy the nearest SAR.
Shortly, a helicopter arrived and extracted him from the mountain. Case closed.

I have searched the net and looked at several radios that are affordable. I finally decided that the best bet for our needs would be an ICOM IC-A5 Sport. This radio weighs about a pound and uses AA alkalines. The more expensive version uses a NiCad battery with charger. The IC-A5 Sport covers all the aviation channels AND features all the NOAA weather channels as well. There is one or more channels that you can go to which is used for general chat between planes so once you made contact, you could get off the emergency frequency and talk further with the pilot on this "chat" channel. It would also be wise to have the pilot advise the SAR team what channel on the aircraft radio you will be standing by on. Then you can communicate with your rescuers. The radio puts out five watts and you should be able to hail any commercial plane and most private planes/helicopters within fifty miles or more from your location. I would prefer this radio over the one with the NiCad battery for the simple reason that you have no charger in the wilderness but you can carry spare alkalines although it seems that the use of this radio would be very minimal and it would not be turned on for very long.

If there are any pilots out there, would appreciate it if you would correct anything I have said and give me your thoughts on this method of "getting found".

The radio sells for $219 at this web site. It possibly could be found cheaper by using one of the Internet "best price" search sites. Anybody that finds a cheaper price, please post.


The radio weighs about a pound and measures 4 7/32 high, 2 9/32 wide and1 1/8 deep.

Let me have some feedback on this suggestion.
"The more I carry, the less I need."

#42202 - 06/22/05 04:34 PM Re: What is THE single best survival item to own?
paramedicpete Offline

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 1920
Loc: Frederick, Maryland
I cannot speak for any of the other SAR/Fire Department/EMS rescuers out there, but I know our radios will not allow us to go to a common “chat” channel that is not already programmed into our radios. Most of our radios have a standard Fire/EMS dispatch channel with additional Fire/EMS/Tactical channels for operations and a few mutual aid channels for communication with nearby jurisdictions.


#42203 - 06/22/05 05:10 PM Re: What is THE single best survival item to own?
KyBooneFan Offline

Registered: 06/19/05
Posts: 233
Loc: West Kentucky
Hi Pete,
Either you misunderstood what I meant or I didn't make it clear.
What I meant was after contacting the plane on 121.5, then switch to another aircraft channel that is used for general chat between pilots and conclude your business with the pilot on that channel. And then I said to advise the pilot what frequency (aircraft) you would be standing by on so you could talk with the rescue chopper. These frequencys are on the AM band and your frequencys are on the FM band.
Does that clear things up?

Thanks for your input.
"The more I carry, the less I need."

#42204 - 06/22/05 05:38 PM Re: What is THE single best survival item to own?
KyBooneFan Offline

Registered: 06/19/05
Posts: 233
Loc: West Kentucky

Here is a listing of most commonly used aircraft frequencys.


It looks like 122.75 is used for general communication between fixed wing planes and 123.025 for general communication between helicopters.

It should be noted that anyone using one of these Icom radios would have to have an FCC license (no big deal to get). It should also be remembered that this radio should be used ONLY FOR EMERGENCYS. It is not a CB radio nor an FRS or GMRS radio for general blabbing. Use it only for real emergencys and keep your transmissions to a minimum. NEVER hail an aircraft just to see if you can.

There is nothing illegal about MONITORING these channels in a non emergency situation if you are bored and have nothing else to do while you are sitting around playing with your other survival toys.

Military channels are a whole new ballgame but I suspect they monitor 121.5.

Still looking for input from people more knowledgable than me. <img src="/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />
"The more I carry, the less I need."

#42205 - 06/22/05 06:58 PM Re: What is THE single best survival item to own?

It's my understanding, that in an "emergency" (ie survival) situation, no FCC license would be required to use the radio. Someone please correct me if I am wrong. Thanks.

#42206 - 06/22/05 07:04 PM Re: What is THE single best survival item to own?
Schwert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/13/02
Posts: 905
Loc: Seattle, Washington
In an emergency you are not required to have a license to use HAM frequencies...I am fairly confident this would apply to the aircraft frequencies also, but I cannot say for certain how the rules apply for frequencies outside of the HAM bands.

5 watts with the supplied antenna is not going to give anywhere near 50 miles of general coverage. A much better antenna AND a very good location would be required for that sort of coverage. 5 watts on the side of a mountain to an aircraft overhead is reasonable though.

Edited by Schwert (06/22/05 07:08 PM)

#42207 - 06/22/05 08:18 PM Re: What is THE single best survival item to own?
CAP613 Offline

Registered: 06/22/05
Posts: 87
Loc: W. PA
All aircraft communications is done with VHF-AM signals. Miltary aircaft run on UHF-AM with their emergency frequencey of 243 Mhz. SARSAT is monitoring 121.5 as do many comercial aircraft. Light aircraft do not normaly monitor 121.5 but may be found on a local unicom frequencey. Most VOR's and towers monitor 121.5. If your are involved in an emergency 123.1 is set aside for SAR communications. If a ground SAR team is comming for you and they have DF equipment they will be able to hear you but will not be able to talk to you.

#42208 - 06/22/05 08:40 PM Re: What is THE single best survival item to own?
cedfire Offline

Registered: 07/10/03
Posts: 659
Loc: Orygun
I remember seeing an article a couple of years back about a group of mountain climbers on Mt. Hood who carried VHF radios and had the state SAR frequency programmed in. Trouble showed up and they used their radio to reach the sheriff's office and to get rescued. After the rescue there was some complaining on the part of the sheriff's office about how the group had a VHF radio and used a state frequency they weren't licensed on. What they didn't realize is the climbers were fully justified to use the frequency. It's not illegal to own any sort of receiver or transmitter, as long as you only transmit on the frequencies you're licensed on (unless in an emergency). This is in the CFR radio section somewhere, I remember seeing a copy of it. The bottom line is they got rescued and lived to tell of their tale, versus being just another statistic.

While the air band radio isn't a bad idea for catching the attention of a passing plane overhead and getting rescued, you'd probably have better luck and usefulness with a ham radio.

I'm a licensed ham and on backcountry forays I usually carry my radio and monitor the nationwide calling frequency of 146.520 MHz. The ham radio would enable me to reach people in areas without cell phone reception. It also comes in pretty handy for non-emergencies, too (if you car was stuck at the trailhead, for example). You'll also get much better coverage going through ham repeaters on nearby mountaintops than on a simplex 121.500 MHz AM channel on the aircraft band.

Many 9-1-1 dispatch centers are also staffed by people who are ham radio operators for a hobby, and in many cases there is a ham radio in the 9-1-1 center for emergency use. There is NOT likely to be an AM aircraft radio transmitter. Also, most SAR teams probably have a few ham radio operators and will likely be listening.

The short answer to your question is no matter what radio you get (ham, aircraft, etc), don't just depend on the rechargeable battery that comes with it. You can usually purchase a higher capacity battery. I'd also recommend getting a "AA" battery adapter for the radio. Fill it with fresh batteries and you have a backup battery if you need it. Don't depend on just one battery.

My advice: get your basic "technician" ham license (no morse code, and only takes a 2 day class), buy a ham radio, buy a repeater guidebook (lists ham radios by area), and carry a backup battery. If you really enjoy it you can always join a local ham radio club.

Check out the ARRL at: www.arrl.org

If you want to check out prices of ham radios, there are a lot of distributors nationwide, but two of the biggest are:

Ham Radio Outlet www.hamradio.com
AES www.aesham.com

For around $150 you can get a good 2M handheld ham radio with a AA battery pack.

Good luck!

#42209 - 06/22/05 08:50 PM Re: What is THE single best survival item to own?
paramedicpete Offline

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 1920
Loc: Frederick, Maryland

I was only responding from a ground team perspective that does not have the ability to change to a general aviation “chat” channel to communicate or listen to the individual in trouble.

For example, if I want to talk with a Maryland State Police helicopter, they will go to the tactical channel we working on. They can program or change to any aviation channel necessary, but our radios cannot.


#42210 - 06/22/05 09:18 PM Re: What is THE single best survival item to own?
7k7k99 Offline

Registered: 06/01/05
Posts: 375
Loc: Ohio
I guess that is a good idea, providing we are not subjected to an EMP attack and nothing is flying and no electronics that are not hardened against such an attack are working. I don't think most people are going to invest in such an item in my opinion.

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