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03/16/17 Basic Fundamentals of Aviation Lighting Systems

Article - March 16, 2016 By

Explosion Proof Light -50 Watt - Class 1 Division 1 - Inline transformer 120/240V to 12V - 50' Cord

Basic Fundamentals of Aviation Lighting Systems

Aviation lighting systems play an essential role in the safety of aircraft operations, both in air and on land. Such fixtures may include strobing beacons, corrosion resistant flood lights, obstruction lights and portable, explosion proof luminaries. The application of aviation lighting components are not limited to planes and airport facilities. They can also be found on commercial towers, ships, cranes and repair hangers.

Several governing institutions, like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), have released guidelines that offer recommendations to ensure proper application. This article dives into specific requirements for industrial aviation lighting systems.

Aircraft and Marine Navigation Lighting

The first, and most direct application of aviation lighting, is on aircrafts. On airplanes, a red navigation fixture is installed on the left wingtip leading edge, while a green light can be found on the right wingtip leading edge. A white light should also be applied on the tail or every wingtip (far end). For commercial airline operations, lights are needed to ensure visibility of the company logo, typically located at the tail fin. Furthermore, heavy duty strobing lights may be installed to prevent accidental collisions. This lighting setup is also applicable to ships in marine sectors.

In civil aviation sectors, it is best practice to keep such lights on between sunset and sunrise. This means that the luminaries must use reliable lighting technologies, such as LEDs, to reduce continuous maintenance. It is important to consider that all aircrafts after March 1996 must be equipped with anti-collision lighting features, which includes strobing luminaries and rotating beacons (white or red). According to the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), such fixtures may only be turned off if they become hazardous during bad weather (14 CFR Section 91.209) and if they negatively affect ground operations. When operating below 10,000 feet or within 10 miles from the airport facility (day or night), pilots are encouraged to utilize landing lights.

Towers (Aviation Warning Lights)

Tall structures that exceed 200 feet above ground level, such as towers, buildings, lighthouses and communication stations, must also incorporate industrial lights to prevent fatal collisions with aircrafts. The FAA elaborates on how such lighting systems should be installed on the structures. Red obstruction lights (steady burning), red/white medium intensity beacons (20-40 FPM), high intensity beacons and dual red/white medium intensity beacons are the types of luminaries recommended by the FAA and ICAO.

FAA Lighting System Configuration:

• Type A: Red Lighting System

• Type B: High Intensity White

• Type C: High Intensity White

• Type D: Medium Intensity White

• Type E: Dual Lighting Systems / Red & Medium Intensity White

• Type F: Dual Lighting Systems / Red & High Intensity White (Dual Beacon on appurtenance over 40’ tall)

• Solid Structure: Chimney & Stack

ICAO Lighting System Configuration:

• Red Lighting Systems: Type B- Medium Intensity Red Flashing (L-864), Type C- Medium Intensity Red Steady (L-864) and Type B- Low Intensity Red Steady (L-810)

• White Lighting Systems: Type A- Medium Intensity White Flashing (L-865; L-866) and Type A- High Intensity White Flashing (L-856; L857)

• Dual Lighting Systems: Type A- Medium Intensity Red Flashing (L-864), Type C- Medium Intensity Red Steady (L-864), Type B- Medium Intensity White Flashing (L-865), Type A- High Intensity White Flashing (L-856; L-857) and Type B- Low Intensity Red Steady (L-810)

In urban locations, where lights from other structures, such as buildings and street lights, are present, the FAA recommends using red obstruction lights with painting or a medium-intensity dual lighting system. However, it is important to consider that the latter option is not ideal for structures less than 200 feet in height.

Industrial Crane Lighting Systems

Like commercial towers, cranes must also be marked with lights to prevent accidental collision with aircrafts. In fact, according to a report by Konecranes, over 50 percent of electricity used on the machines are allocated to its lighting system, which is ultimately designed to comply with FAA and ICAO regulations. Height is the main factor that dictates the number and type of lights found on industrial cranes:

• H < 45m: One level of low intensity obstruction lights shall be used

• 45m < H < 105m: Two levels of obstruction lights shall be used: top level with medium intensity, intermediate with low intensity

• 105m < H < 210m: Four levels shall be used: top with medium intensity, 1st intermediate with low intensity, 2nd intermediate with medium intensity, lower level with low intensity

The number of lights on each level of the machine must match the requirements of lighting per level. For example, the top level should incorporate one to three obstruction luminaries – at the top and at the jib/counter-jib. For other levels, one or two obstruction lights should be installed at every level of the crane.

LEDs and Aviation Lighting

Out of all the technologies available in the market today, LEDs are quickly becoming the top choice for aviation lighting systems. This is due to its ability to withstand rough treatment (no filaments) and its superior lifespan of over 50,000+ hours. For operators, this translates to decreased maintenance and re-lamping, as well as lower risks of premature failure from exposure to demanding, outdoor environments.

For crane operators, LEDs offer significant energy savings. As mentioned earlier, cranes utilize large amounts of electricity due to early warning systems for aircrafts. Because of this, they are forced to supply and maintain the fixtures, which can get costly from a long-term perspective.

A study by Phoenix Products showed just how much businesses can save by switching to LED luminaries. The establishment installed LED lights on a fleet of rubber tired gantry (RTG) cranes, resulting in over $5,000 in annual savings (per crane). For groups that operate over 50 RTGs, yearly savings could reach up to $250,000 per year.

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