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Is it feasible to make 2 meter amateur radio contacts from a small GA plane (e.g. a Cessna 172)? If so, what equipment is required?

Most of the stations being contacted will be using vertically polarized antennas, which are not ideal for up/down communications. Does the normal recommendation to orient your antenna the same as those of the stations you want to contact apply in this case, or would it be better to use a horizontal antenna on the plane? (Assume it is not feasible to have the stations on the ground use horizontal antennas.)

I'm specifically asking about technical feasibility, not legality.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's likely you're taking about a plane at 3000-6000ft, which isn't terribly vertical- compared to ISS or a satellite, at least. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2022 at 6:02
  • $\begingroup$ @tedder42 for satellite contacts, horizontal antennas are used. People who work satellites usually have separate antennas. $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Dec 6, 2022 at 6:12
  • $\begingroup$ from a small GA plane or for a small GA plane? $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Dec 6, 2022 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't this more about amateur radio than about aviation? Perhaps we should move this to ham.stack? $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Dec 6, 2022 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ @DeltaLima I wasn't sure which site to ask on; feel free to move it if you want. $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Dec 6, 2022 at 15:04

2 Answers 2

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You can certainly use a 2 meter handheld in a plane to boink a repeater in your vicinity. You can do this with the rubber ducky antenna attached to the handheld or you can install a second dedicated VHF comm antenna on the belly of the plane to connect to the handheld, since the 2 meter band sits right at the top of the VHF comm frequency band and will match up fairly well to the handheld.

Since the 2M band is slightly shorter in wavelength than the VHF comm band, the comm antenna will be slightly too long for 2M- meaning that it can easily be shortened or "pruned" to length to obtain a near-perfect match.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! How much do polarization issues affect this? $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Dec 6, 2022 at 5:42
  • $\begingroup$ repeaters use vertical polarization, point-to-point 2 meter is horizontal. I have no trouble hitting the repeater 20 miles from me on my handheld even when I am holding the radio sideways. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2022 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! Where are you located? I thought all FM activity was normally vertical and SSB/CW was horizontal, but it could vary by country or region. $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Dec 6, 2022 at 5:50
  • $\begingroup$ Oregon, USA. My 2 meter repeater-boinker yagi is indeed vertically polarized (elements are vertical) and to use it for 2M SSB requires turning it horizontal. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2022 at 7:20
  • $\begingroup$ Oh okay, I'm in Oregon too. So for FM simplex would also be vertical, right? $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Dec 6, 2022 at 7:23
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Two meter HTs work fine from general aviation aircraft. I used mine in the early 1980s with autopatch to make a telephone call to a friend to meet me at my arrival - before cellular phones were common.

In the 1970s, a USAF Major was piloting a Lockheed C130 Hercules when it suffered electrical failure which disabled its radios. He pulled his HT out of his flight bag and called the destination air base control tower to get approach and landing clearance. The tower was both surprised and impressed (I attended USAF engineering class with him in 1975).

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! How did he contact the tower with an HT? Was it an air band radio? $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Dec 9, 2022 at 5:59
  • $\begingroup$ Auto patch, which many repeaters have, allows a user to make telephone calls through the repeater. $\endgroup$
    – user31011
    Dec 10, 2022 at 7:04

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