Specialised runway lighting – how it helps planes

Specialised runway lighting – how it helps planes

Runway lighting is a key necessity for the safe passage of air travellers or cargo. A modern marvel, airports in themselves are a statement to the ongoing progression of technology and state-of-the-art engineering. Runway lighting is an important staple for the landing and take-off of our pilots, further refining the efficiency of international flight.


Runway edge lighting is used to illuminate the edges of runways amidst times of poor visibility or darkness. There are a variety of specialised lighting systems, each classified depending on the intensity of light they are able to produce. There are 3 main categories: High-intensity Runway Lights (HIRL), Medium Intensity Runway Lights (MIRL), and Low Intensity Runway Lights (LIRL).


Whilst the runway may appear a confusing mess of lines and colour, each set of lights is impeccably planned, placed and assessed for its role in aiding take-off and landing.


Locating the edges of the runway is the most hazardous aspect of the pilot’s journey, hence why the edge lighting is white – so it is easily visible even on the darkest of nights!


The length of the runway also requires specialised lighting, this time colour-coded at intermittent distances, to provide the pilot with an accurate sense of how far along the runway they may be. Yellow replaces the white on the final 2,000 feet of the runway – starting what is called the ‘caution zone’. The lights at the end of the runway have dual properties, emitting red light towards the runway to highlight the end and emitting green light outward from the runway to indicate the landing threshold for aircraft above.


Another crucial feature of runway lighting is the centerline lights, spaced at exactly 50-foot increments for the purpose of aiding visibility. In poor weather conditions, judging distance can be a precarious task, but centerline lights dismiss this potential problem. Similar to the lights illuminating length, these also turn red in the final stages of the runway.


A fascinating part of runway specialised lighting, and arguably one of the most important, is the lighting for illuminating the specific landing section, what is appropriately named the ‘touchdown zone’. It is incredibly useful in assuring reliable accuracy in low-visibility conditions. These are made up of two rows of “transverse light bars” which symmetrically illuminate the runway centerline. These lights are white and start 100 feet after the landing threshold, finishing 3,000 feet beyond.


It is evident that specialised runway lighting plays a crucial part in the aviation industry, and maintaining the safety of large amounts of people, 24/7, 365 days a year. Such extensive focus and investment in specialised lighting technology guarantee reliability, accuracy and precision – three elementary factors of successful, long-lasting air travel. Without such advances in lighting, our air travel would be much more limited; imagine trying to land a plane at night with no clear idea of where you need to land, or how far along the runway the plane is.


Specialised lighting allows for night travel and travel in precarious weather conditions, and with plane travel being such an instrumental part of people’s daily lives, whether its an important meeting or a family emergency, accurate lighting technology allows for the needs of the people, whatever they may be, to be met with professionalism and reliability.