AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA 0056B Accredited

What Are Common Types of Runway Lights?

While the ability of an aircraft to safely fly is essential for its basic operations, it is equally essential that it is able to safely takeoff and land from a runway as well. In order to properly carry out the beginning and end of a flight, the pilot must carefully align their aircraft with the runway and ensure that they are able to stop movement or lift off from the ground before they reach the end of the runway. As many flights are carried out during low visibility conditions and night hours, runway lights and the aircraft lighting system are essential. Despite being a basic element of most airport runways, runway lights are also mandated by international aviation regulations established by ICAO.

For optimal safety, lighting up a runway is not as simple as illuminating the whole area, as aircraft must understand where the runway starts and which direction they are approaching it from. Because of this, runway lighting is broken up into multiple groups based on the area of the runway and what phase the aircraft should be in at that point. Generally, these lights include the approach, threshold, runway edge, PAPI, and taxiway lights.

The approach lights are crucial as they ensure that the pilot approaches the runway from the right direction, and they extend out beyond the start of the tarmac. The color of runway lights will vary based on the type, approach lights being a white, unidirectional beam that is either steady or blinking. Found at both domestic and international airports, the standard is to have around 17 approach lights leading to the runway. Similar to the approach lights, the runway end identification light is another white light that may be flashing. Despite their name, these lights actually serve to identify the beginning of a runway. For the start of the “safe-to-land” part of a runway, green threshold lights are installed.

Some of the most important lights on an airfield are the runway edge lights, and they are placed at the left and right sides of a runway so that an aircraft can remain aligned during its approach or takeoff. These edge lights will often vary in color, and they are bidirectional as well. Based on the category of a runway and its length, runway edge lights may be white/yellow, white/red, or yellow/red.

For the end of the runway, runway end lights are used. These are essential as any space behind the lights is devoid of a runway. To ensure that the end of the runway is clearly indicated, runway end lights are unidirectional red lights. It is also important that aircraft are aware of what is the taxiway and what is the runway, as aircraft cannot land where other aircraft are taxiing. As such, taxiing lights are used, which are blue in color and not as bright as other lighting. Taxiway lights are actually invisible when flying as they are only needed when taxiing.

The final type of runway light encompasses the PAPI lights, those of which are more formally known as Precision Approach Path Indicator lights. PAPI lights assist pilots in carrying out safe landings as they are placed on the left and right side of the runway so that the pilot can maintain the correct path during their approach. Every PAPI light will consist of four lighting fixtures which may either have a red or white light output. To ensure that one is at the correct height during their approach, two lights should be red and two white, as all will be either red or white when the aircraft is too high or low in the atmosphere.

Runway lights are crucial for safe operations, so they should be regularly repaired and replaced as necessary to keep them up and running when needed. Here at Stacked Purchasing, we can help you secure all the various components you require to successfully carry out your operations. With AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accreditation, you can trust in the quality and reliability of our offered runway lights and other aviation products. Get started on the purchasing process today with a customized quote for your comparisons which you may receive through our online RFQ service!


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