With that need in mind, a team of pilots at Sporty’s set out a few years ago to design a totally new radio. The goal was a radio made exclusively for the cockpit - no unnecessary features, no confusing menus, and nothing extra to buy. The result is the PJ2, the only radio with built-in aviation headset jacks.

Here’s why we think it’s the perfect backup radio.

PJ2 COM Radio1. No adapter cables. An emergency requires quick action; there is no time to be fumbling with adapter cables and small plugs. The PJ2 eliminates this hassle, with standard PJ jacks (compatible with the vast majority of general aviation headsets) built right into the radio. Simply unplug your headset from the panel and plug it into the PJ2 - now you can talk to Air Traffic Control while enjoying the noise cancelling features of your headset without extra wires. If your headset has a single, 6-pin plug (often called a LEMO plug), simply use any standard twin plug-to-LEMO adapter cable.

2. Simple to use. An emergency is also no time to be reading an instruction manual, so the PJ2 is designed to be dead-simple to operate. There are dedicated knobs for squelch and volume, so just twist the knob to turn the radio on. There are no menus or frequency bands to manage either. Simply type in a frequency to start communicating.

The PJ2 is also designed for one-handed operation, so you can fly with your left hand and communicate with your right. A large push-to-talk button is easily accessed by your index finger, and a handy last frequency button makes it easy to flip back and forth between approach and tower. The large screen is backlit for easy viewing at night, and the oversized keypad is easy to use in turbulence. Everything has been optimized for pilot-friendly operation.

3. AA batteries. Rechargeable batteries are a fact of life these days, but while they are excellent for devices you use every day (like a smartphone), they are not the best option for a backup radio. Because it’s likely your radio will sit in your flight bag for weeks between uses, we prefer easy-to-find AA batteries for the PJ2. With a shelf life measured in years, you can load up the radio and rest assured you’ll have power when you need it. No need to worry about charging another battery.

PJ2 Radio with battery packOur team of pilots went a step further, though. There’s also a USB-C plug on the right side of the radio for additional flexibility. While this won’t charge the battery pack (the AAs aren’t rechargeable after all), it will power the radio. Since USB-C is an increasingly popular connector, found on everything from iPads to ADS-B receivers, you don’t have to carry another obscure charging cable. Just plug it into your cigarette lighter or portable battery pack and turn the PJ2 on.

4. Low price. The best backup radio is the one you have with you, so we believe value is another important feature. We’ve worked hard to make the PJ2 a rugged, reliable radio, but all while keeping the price under $200. The only thing we cut was unnecessary features - not quality. There’s also nothing extra to buy since the PJ2 comes with an AA battery pack, antenna, and belt clip. And remember there is no adapter cable to buy.

A smart pilot always flies with a Plan B in mind, whether it’s an alternate airport or a handheld radio. While panel-mount avionics failures are relatively rare, the consequences of such a situation are very serious, so carrying a backup is a smart investment. You’ve heard the advice: “aviate, navigate, communicate.” The first part is up to you, but the latter two require some extra gear.

The PJ2 COM Radio is available exclusively from Sporty’s for just $199. Click here for more information.