Staying in touch is always problematic. Finally, a solution.|
License in a Day |
Home Built Comm
Being able to talk with fellow paramotor pilots has been a struggle
since I got into the sport. Electronics wizards like Nick Scholtes,
Robin Rumbolt and others have helped but still many pilots go without
During a trip with Jeff Hamann, Phil Russman and others to Baja,
where communications was especially important, I found the answer. Both
Jeff and Phil were always perfectly clear, more so than any other pilot.
And more clear than any I'd ever heard. The key to their success was
simplicity itself, the M101 mic wired without any resisters or
electronics whatsoever and through a equally simple Push-To-Talk (PTT).
Jeff wore ear buds that plugged right into the radio's earphone jack and
the mic plugged into its mic jack.
I took the system up to try it with Phil Russman and the clarity was
incredible. In fact, the Powered Paragliding Bible's cover picture was
made possible by being able to talk so clearly to Phil using this
So I set out to get the gear for myself and make it available to
others. After working with Sport Link Communications, I am happy to
now offer it on
FootFlyer. You can either buy it here or build it from the
instructions below. My hope is that more pilots have reliable
Simplicity: M101 150 ohm
The beauty of this is that, not only is the audio exceptional, but it
requires no electronics, no batteries and is completely portable.
M101/AIC dynamic microphone itself was developed eons ago to military
specs for various aircraft communications needs. Whatever noise
canceling properties they needed turn out to work perfectly for our
application. Engineering types prefer electret microphones but, for
simplicity sake, this works amazingly well. New M101's are
expensive, costing an average of $40 to $50. Most M101's are
150 ohm but there are some
5 ohm models used primarily in military applications. We use the 150
Reliability and portability are major benefits. So many times I've
gone flying with a group who don't have comm because either their helmet
stopped working or it won't work with the radio they just bought.
Matching radio to helmet can be a nightmare. This system eliminates the
problem by separating the mic from the helmet. Ear buds are available
M101 Mic sources:
David Clark Model
For those who would like to save money and build the system yourself, it
requires no electronics. You could even use an off-the-shelf PTT from Sporty's pilot or other catalogue sales outfit.
To build it, purchase an M101/AIC microphone and wire it in series to
the PTT and then into a 2.5mm plug. Mount the microphone to your
helmet's existing boom using wire ties. The one that FootFlyer sells
comes with a small extension to make that easier. We'll sell just
the microphone, too, but you could probably find it cheaper (see the
used ones above).
We've tested the system with a number of radios and, so far, have
found it is extremely compatible. Having said that, my experience
suggests not to trust any radio that's not listed.
So far, the models that we've tested it with are:
1. Vertex VX 150 and Vertex 170 2-meter (requires Ham License). This is the best
quality communications we've ever had. Numerous groups around the
country are using these radios and have proclaimed exceptional
reliability. You have to have their optional (CT-44 for the vx150,
different for each radio) 1-to-2
2. Midland two-prong. We've tested the small, cheap radios from
Wal-Mart. Range is questionable but audio quality, if the squelch is
broken, is decent.
Motorola. Just say no to Motorola. First of all, they're almost all
single prong radios. You'll need an adapter that goes from single prong
to two-prong (like all single jack radios). But what's worse is that
Motorola insists on using a proprietary, and
slightly longer hole than everyone else so just using a regular single
prong plug doesn't work.
I've actually used the FootFlyer system with Motorola
radios but had to file down the radio's case so our more-standard 2.5 mm plug
fits. You can see in the picture at left how the case of the right-hand
radio was filed away around its single-hole mic/speaker jack.
4. Insignia. So far, works good. I don't even know where we got these
FRS/GMRS radios but the FootFlyer system keys them and has good audio.
5. Cobra. We've tested the two-prong wx 310's which work well right
out of the box. We've also tested two models of their microTALK through
our 1-to-2 prong adapter and they worked fine.
6. Aviation Radios. The FootFlyer system does NOT work with aviation
radios. Robin Rumbolt tells us that's because aviation radios key the
microphone by shorting one of the radio pins to ground whereas the FRS
and 2-meter radios key by connecting the microphone and a resister.
Note: Using 2-meter radios require a Ham license and, strangely
enough, so does GMRS which most FRS radios now incorporate. Some
channels are GMRS and some are FRS. You need an $85
FCC license, good for five years, to operate on the GMRS
Our hope is to improve the communications in this sport so more
pilots will benefit from being able to talk. Lord knows there's not much
profit in it. Thanks to Sport Link Communications who is building these
Enjoy and, by all means, stay in touch.