Saturday 13 June 2020


I just sold my Uniden 125XLT scanner which I use solely for Civil Airband listening and replaced it with a real Airband radio - the FTA-550L from Yaesu. This is a very attractive handheld transceiver with both COM and NAV frequencies along with Weather capabilities (US/CAN). Obviously, I won't be transmitting on the radio and would have been perfectly happy with a receive-only version if they'd offered one. The radio can be PTT-LOCKED from within the menus.

So why order an FTA-550L? Well, for the same money as a Uniden, the Yaesu build quality is infinitely superior.

The FTA-550 also includes VOR and ILS navigation features plus NOAA weather band monitoring for those who can receive it. The radio can be programmed with up to 200 preset channels and quickly called up by selecting the station name. With the capability of using up to 15 alphanumeric characters per name, the FTA-550 allows for complete channel descriptions. The radio can be programmed on the user’s computer with the included USB cable. 

Two versions of the radio are offered: FTA-550L comes with a Lithium-ion battery, 240-volt and 12-volt DC charger with cradle, alkaline battery tray, antenna, belt clip, headset adapter, and USB programming cable, while the FTA-550AA comes supplied with alkaline battery tray, 12-volt DC power cable and antenna, plus the belt clip, headset adapter and USB programming cable.

If you want the FT-550 with a lithium-ion battery pack and a desktop charger, it'll cost £225, but I think it's worth it for the much longer battery life and long-tern savings (good alkaline batteries are getting ridiculously expensive).

Yaesu FTA 550 L specs....
Transceiver Air Band Portable:
TX 118.000 - 136.975 MHz, RX 108.00 - 136.975MHz (NAV and COM bands).
TX Power 5W PEP, 1.5W Carrier Power.
This YAESU FTA-550 is packed with features, yet very affordable. Boasting an oversize full dot matrix LCD display, the FTA-550 Airband Transceiver provides full communication on the Aircraft communications Band and additionally provides VOR and ILS navigation features on the NAV band.
Additionally the FTA-550 can easily be reprogrammed in minutes using the optional PC Programming software and the supplied USB programming cable.
Two Packages Available:
1°)  FTA-550L Comes supplied with:
Li-Ion battery, 110V and 12VDC charger with cradle, Alkaline battery tray, Antenna, Belt clip, headset adapter, and USB programming cable.
2°) FTA-550 AA Comes supplied with:
Alkaline battery tray, 12VDC Power cable, Antenna, Belt clip, headset adapter, and USB programming cable.
• 5 Watts TX Output Power (Airband: AM 5W P.E.P. type, 1.5W carrier).
• Huge 1.7 x 1.7 Full Dot Matrix display (160 x 160 Dots).
• VOR Navigation Display.
• NOAA Weather Channel receive (US/CANADA)
• NOAA Weather Alert. (US/CANADA)
• 200 Memory Channels with 15 alphanumeric characters.
• Back-lit Keypad and display with dimmer.
• Water Protection -IPX5 Rating.
• Loud Audio (800 mW).
Easy to operate menu system.
The FTA-550 comes configured with an easy to operate icon driven menu system. The displays and menu settings are logically configured for a more intuitive user interface.
Huge Dot Matrix LCD display.
The FTA-550 features a huge 1.7 x 1.7 (160 x 160 dots) full dot matrix LCD display with full backlight and dimmer. The high resolution display makes it easier to view all the great features the FTA-550 has to offer.
VOR Navigation Display.
When the FTA-550 receives a VOR signal, the display will automatically switch to the NAV band screen which shows a CDI based on the received signal.
200 Memory channels with up to 15 Alphanumeric characters.
The FTA-550 can store up to 200 Memory channels for quick and easy retrieval. With the capability of using up to 15 Alphanumeric characters per name the FTA-550 allows for a better channel description.
200 Channel Memory bank.
The FTA-550L can store up to 200 Memory channels for quick and easy retrieval. With the capability of using up to 15 Alphanumeric characters per name the FTA-550 allows for a better channel description.
PC Programmable.
The FTA-550L channel configurations can easily be reprogrammed using the supplied USB programming cable and the optional YCE01 programming software.

1 Pc of FTA-550 Air Band Transceiver.
1 Pc of SRA-13A Helical Antenna.
1 Pc of SBR-12LI Li-Ion Battery Pack.
1 Pc of SBH-11 Charging Cradle.
1 Pc of SBT-12 Alkaline Battery Tray.
1 Pc of SHB-11 Belt Clip.
1 Pc of SAD-11U Wall Charger.
1 Pc of SDD-12 Cigarette Lighter Charger.
1 Pc of SCU-15 Headset Adapter Cable.
1 Pc of T9101606 USB Programming Cable.
1 Pc of User Manual in Engish.

More later.....

Well, it arrived! I cannot believe the quality and heft of this radio considering the price. Yes, the Lithium battery option is expensive, but if you go for the AA battery model, it's an absolute steal!!  The FTA-550L model comes in a nicely packaged box containing everything listed above. It really is comprehensive. 

I downloaded the free programming software and inputted my local frequencies. The software is extremely easy to figure out and use. The only reason that I needed to reach for the User Manual was to learn how to put the radio into Programming Mode (hold MENU while powering up). 

It really makes the Uniden look and feel - dare I say cheap! The Uniden obviously covers a wider range of frequencies, but as I already said, I personally only used it as an AirBand radio (it didn't even do FM Broadband). What's the downside of the Yaesu?? Well it obviously doesn't cover military frequencies, which would be a shame if you lived within range of an RAF base, but if your main interest is in CIVIL aviation, then you can't go wrong with this unit.

Back home I connected the FTA-550 to an external discone and wow, those signals came flying in (excuse the pun). Unlike the 125XLT, the 550 needed no additional filtering to produce perfectly clear reception. Manchester Tower is normally audible but quiet and with hiss from my location, but now it's crisp and clear! Can't believe the difference!

The unit is also LOUD! The audio output is just under 1W and that makes a real difference. I compared the FTA-550L to my AOR AR-3000A and the Yaesu is much better in both sensitivity and clarity of audio.

I can't wait to visit Manchester Airport when the Covid Lockdown is over. Up to now? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

1 comment:

Tony Ryan said...

The Yaesu 550 is excellent and I’ve recently fitted mine with a Broadsword D1000. It has made a significant difference to the already superb reception. The best £12.50 I’ve spent in years.