Airport Runway Lighting

The most important part of any airfield is the runway where the aircraft land and then take off again. Many passengers arriving or departing at night enjoy the sight of the bright lights along the runway. However, airport runway lighting is not just for show. It helps pilots to take off and land safely. The different patterns of lights, their colors, and their positions all communicate critically important information.

The runway lighting we offer is compliant with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization. ICAO standardizes runway lighting so that the colors and patterns are consistent at airports all over the world. This prevents airports from sending unnecessarily confusing messages and helps keep pilots and passengers safe.

Why Is Airport Runway Lighting so Important?

To identify the location of a runway, where it begins and ends, and where aircraft can start touching down, it is covered in special markings painted on the pavement. However, when it is dark or when visibility is low, the markings on the runway become difficult to see. The lighting on the runway communicates the same information as the markings do and is visible even in the dark or during conditions of rain or fog.

What Are the Different Types of Runway Lighting?

Runway lights are laid out in certain patterns and are different colors. The various patterns and colors all have different meanings.

1. Runway Edge Lights

The most important lights on the airfield are the runway edge lights. Like the white lines running along either side of a highway, the edge lights identify the sides of the runway. This prevents a pilot from drifting too far when landing and accidentally rolling off the runway. Edge lights can be some combination of white, red, and yellow in color, but most often they are all white.

2. Approach Lights

Approach lights are not found on the runway itself. Their function is to point pilots in the direction of the runway, so they are located prior to it. Approach lights are primarily white in color but can also include red and yellow. They may glow steadily or they may blink.

The larger the airport, the more complicated the structure of approach lights is likely to be. At domestic and regional airports, 17 approach lights are usually arrayed in the form of a cross. This is the simplest form.

3. Threshold Lights

After the approach lights are the threshold lights. These lights represent the beginning of the runway and let the pilot know that he or she is in the area where it is safe to start touching down. Threshold lights are green in color and span the width of the runway. They are accompanied by two white, flashing runway threshold identification lights on either side.

4. Runway End Lights

It is important for pilots to know when they are approaching the end of the runway, by which time the plane should come to a stop. Like threshold lights, they go across the entire runway, but they are red in color. This mimics the color symbolism used for traffic signals on automobile roadways; red means stop and green means go.

To save money on lights, some airports use combined runway end lights and threshold lights. From one direction, you see red lights identifying the end of the runway. From the other, you see green lights letting you know that you’re almost to the point where the approach and the runway meet. With the guidance of air traffic control, planes may use the runway from either direction.

These are not all the different types of runway lights, but they are a few of the most important. At Metro Wire, we are a leading supplier of cable and wire for airport lighting. We have expertise in working with airports, including the Detroit Metropolitan Airport in our home state of Michigan.

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