Updated: Aug 2, 2019
There comes a point in every pilot's flying career when he or she decides that they need to upgrade to an Active Noise Reduction headset. That was December 2017 for me, after instructing for nearly eight years.
I am sure that most people would purchase one sooner but I started instructing in my early twenties and the noise levels never bothered me no matter what I was flying. As I approached thirty, I noticed that the noise levels in the cockpit had started to become fatiguing.
I decided to look at ANR headsets and after scouring the internet for a few days, I noticed that Pilot Communications Europe Ltd were selling a range of entry level ANR headsets at very good prices.
My primary concern was that they would not be robust enough to endure the rigours of flying instructor life with high usage levels and constantly being moved from aircraft to aircraft. I spoke to the company and they assured me that they were up to the job and plenty of instructors used them.
The PA17-72T was around £270 including VAT and delivery and arrived after a few days. I put it straight to work. It comes with a headset carry case and a few spare audio cables.
The first thing I noticed was that the plastic seemed a bit cheap and the build quality was slightly disappointing. For example, some of the lines between the foam cups and headset cans seemed to be poorly machined. However, this entry level ANR headset was only £270 and I had to bare that in mind.
The noise reduction is powered by a 9v square battery which is plugged into a separate housing and a 3.5mm audio jack runs from the headset to the housing. This is not as streamlined as some of the other headsets which have a small cigar shaped battery box in the main audio lines, but it never bothered me or got in the way. I found the battery life to be reasonable and consistent with the marketing which stated around 40 hours. If the battery ran out in flight, the headset would still work just as a passive headset, though I always stored a spare battery in my sunglasses case.
The battery housing can be switched between AUTO mode or ON. In AUTO mode it is meant to automatically detect when it is being used and switch off if it is not to preserve battery life. I found that the battery would last much longer if I disconnected the battery housing from the headset completely, which suggests that the AUTO mode is not reliable.
I was impressed with the weight of the headset. It was extremely light and certainly looks heavier than it is. I also thought that the comfort levels were good, though some pilots at my club disagreed and said it was uncomfortable around their ears. I guess they've never tried the MicroAvionics UL100 then!
Active Noise Reduction
I thought the noise reduction was very good. The company claims that the headset produces 30dB of active noise reduction at 100Hz which is very good for a budget headset. I can quite believe that claim. The headset also produces 24dB of passive noise reduction.
Switching the ANR on and off produces a huge difference in the low frequency sounds which makes it very noticeable. The low frequency noises are the one that can damage hearing over time and this is primarily why ANR headsets targets those frequencies.
Unfortunately, after a few months the headset started to squeal when it was being used and I had to send it back for a repair under warranty (five years). The turnaround time was around two to three weeks which I thought was quite slow. They stated that the fault was due to air becoming trapped in the headset. I had initially asked that they send a replacement as I needed it for daily use and could not wait three weeks without a headset, but they refused and said I must wait for a repair. In the mean time, I purchased another one and decided to sell the old one when it come back from repair.
A few months later, the second headset let me down whilst performing a General Flying Test. I was returning to the circuit after a test when my microphone faded away and switched off completely. This put me in a difficult situation as I had to communicate with the student pilot using gestures and speaking very loudly.
I put together a complaint and sent it to Pilot Communications Europe. They responded only after a week and agreed to a refund as I could not chance a headset letting me down again.
It seems to me that this is a small company who manufacturers their own products and are able to do them at very good prices.
Unfortunately the quality is not there and I don't think any of their headsets will stand the test of time. I am sure that a private pilot would get longer out of the headset than I did, simply because I use it for four to five hours per day. However, I am sure that any cost saving on these budget headsets will be cancelled out by problems later on.
The build quality on the PA17-72T is poor and it means that it is simply not robust enough to withstand heavy usage. In addition, the company's communication was poor (ironic) and they seemed uninterested in me.
Perhaps the headset would be suitable for infrequent passenger use to give them the comfort of ANR, but I cannot recommend this for working pilots or anybody who flies frequently.
QuizAero Rating: 2 out of 5
Active Noise Reduction is good
Some pilots find it uncomfortable
Poor build quality
Poor customer service
Are you learning to fly? Click here to check out our highly acclaimed online ground school and practice exams. We cover aeroplanes, helicopters and microlights.