Six Reasons Why You Should Use a Radio Headset

Are you still talking to ATC using a handheld microphone? If so, you might as well fly with one hand tied behind your back.
Here are 6 reasons to drop that microphone and start using a radio headset.

  1. A radio headset frees one hand from holding a microphone. Let’s face it, flying is a hands-on activity. Flying from the left seat, in most airplanes, means holding the control yoke or stick in your left hand and the power controls in your right hand. When you use one hand to hold a microphone, you have to sacrifice some control of the aircraft. A headset holds the microphone for you, freeing both hands to do more important work.

  3. A headset microphone holds a constant position near your mouth, creating consistent transmissions. In contrast, each time you bring a hand held microphone to your mouth to speak, the quality of your transmission will vary with microphone position. It’s nearly impossible to hit the perfect position each time you raise a hand held microphone to your mouth. Turbulence makes this problem even worse.

  5. The earpieces of a headset protect your hearing. Most headsets use passive noise reduction through insulation, or active noise reduction through electronic circuitry. No matter the method a headset uses to reduce noise, your non-renewable hearing is protected from destruction by high decibel noise. Yes, ear plugs work well, as long as they are 1. fresh and clean, 2. correctly inserted into the ear canal, and 3. you don’t mind feeling like you have head cold while wearing them.

  7. A well-built headset provides better audio clarity for listening than provided by most cockpit loudspeakers. The earpieces of a headset deliver sound directly to your ear. The sound from a cockpit loudspeaker bounces around the interior of your cockpit and competes with other ambient noises before it reaches your ear.

  9. A headset gives you an audible sidetone–feedback of your own voice–so you may monitor the quality of your transmission. It’s nearly impossible to hear your own transmission via a cockpit loudspeaker, especially in a noisy cockpit. No feedback equals no opportunity to adjust and improve your transmissions.

  11. Most headsets have an individual volume control. This means each pilot or passenger wearing a headset can adjust volume to suit his need.

If you have held off buying a headset because you thought they are too expensive, take a look at my Headset Buyer’s Guide. There are headsets in the $100 to $200 range that are very serviceable. You can even get a very well-built headset for under $400.

Can you think of other reasons that favor using a radio headset? Comment below.


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4 thoughts on “Six Reasons Why You Should Use a Radio Headset”

  1. A million years ago — when dinosaurs walked the earth and Raquel Welch was on my bedroom wall — I was learning how to fly a glider in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. The radio had a speaker half screwed to the side of the front seat and a microphone hanging on a gate hook. If you banked too far to the right it fell on the floor, so needless to say I had to pick it up several times. I still managed to only bounce once on my first solo landing — with the mike cord wrapped around my neck three times and my vision beginning to narrow from the lack of oxygen.

    A few years back I bought a used set of Sennheisers from a pal and boy, that started a trend that hasn’t stopped since. The difficult thing now is figuring out what to do with the spare hand…

    1. Northern Light, that’s so funny I may print it and hang it on my wall! Maybe I’ll hang it in the same place where my poster of Raquel Welch used to be.

      Too bad Sennheiser is discontinuing manufacture of their aviation headsets this year. I heard they are pretty good.

      All the best,



    1. Kerly,

      Air traffic controllers don’t need to bring their own headset. All airline cockpits have spare headsets.


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