Section 2. Air Navigation and Obstruction Lighting
Aeronautical Light Beacons
- An aeronautical light beacon is a visual NAVAID displaying flashes of white and/or colored light to indicate the location of an airport, a heliport, a landmark, a certain point of a Federal airway in mountainous terrain, or an obstruction. The light used may be a rotating beacon or one or more flashing lights. The flashing lights may be supplemented by steady burning lights of lesser intensity.
- The color or color combination displayed by a particular beacon and/or its auxiliary lights tell whether the beacon is indicating a landing place, landmark, point of the Federal airways, or an obstruction. Coded flashes of the auxiliary lights, if employed, further identify the beacon site.
Code Beacons and Course Lights
- Code Beacons. The code beacon, which can be seen from all directions, is used to identify airports and landmarks. The code beacon flashes the three or four character airport identifier in International Morse Code six to eight times per minute. Green flashes are displayed for land airports while yellow flashes indicate water airports.
Course Lights. The course light, which can be seen clearly from only one direction, is used only with rotating beacons of the Federal Airway System: two course lights, back to back, direct coded flashing beams of light in either direction along the course of airway.
Airway beacons are remnants of the “lighted” airways which antedated the present electronically equipped federal airways system. Only a few of these beacons exist today to mark airway segments in remote mountain areas. Flashes in Morse code identify the beacon site.
Obstructions are marked/lighted to warn airmen of their presence during daytime and nighttime conditions. They may be marked/lighted in any of the following combinations:
- Aviation Red Obstruction Lights. Flashing aviation red beacons (20 to 40 flashes per minute) and steady burning aviation red lights during nighttime operation. Aviation orange and white paint is used for daytime marking.
- Medium Intensity Flashing White Obstruction Lights. Medium intensity flashing white obstruction lights may be used during daytime and twilight with automatically selected reduced intensity for nighttime operation. When this system is used on structures 500 feet (153m) AGL or less in height, other methods of marking and lighting the structure may be omitted. Aviation orange and white paint is always required for daytime marking on structures exceeding 500 feet (153m) AGL. This system is not normally installed on structures less than 200 feet (61m) AGL.
- High Intensity White Obstruction Lights. Flashing high intensity white lights during daytime with reduced intensity for twilight and nighttime operation. When this type system is used, the marking of structures with red obstruction lights and aviation orange and white paint may be omitted.
- Dual Lighting. A combination of flashing aviation red beacons and steady burning aviation red lights for nighttime operation and flashing high intensity white lights for daytime operation. Aviation orange and white paint may be omitted.
- Catenary Lighting. Lighted markers are available for increased night conspicuity of high-voltage (69KV or higher) transmission line catenary wires. Lighted markers provide conspicuity both day and night.
- Medium intensity omnidirectional flashing white lighting system provides conspicuity both day and night on catenary support structures. The unique sequential/simultaneous flashing light system alerts pilots of the associated catenary wires.
- High intensity flashing white lights are being used to identify some supporting structures of overhead transmission lines located across rivers, chasms, gorges, etc. These lights flash in a middle, top, lower light sequence at approximately 60 flashes per minute. The top light is normally installed near the top of the supporting structure, while the lower light indicates the approximate lower portion of the wire span. The lights are beamed towards the companion structure and identify the area of the wire span.
- High intensity flashing white lights are also employed to identify tall structures, such as chimneys and towers, as obstructions to air navigation. The lights provide a 360 degree coverage about the structure at 40 flashes per minute and consist of from one to seven levels of lights depending upon the height of the structure. Where more than one level is used the vertical banks flash simultaneously.
- Obstructions are marked/lighted to warn airmen of their presence during daytime and nighttime conditions. They may be marked/lighted in any of the following combinations:
LED Lighting Systems
Certain light-emitting diode (LED) lighting systems fall outside the combined visible and near-infrared spectrum of night vision goggles (NVGs) and thus will not be visible to a flightcrew using NVGs.
The FAA changed specifications for LED-based red obstruction lights to make them visible to pilots using certain NVG systems, however, other colors may not be visible.
It is recommended that air carriers/operators —including Part 91 operators—who use NVGs incorporate procedures into manuals and/or standard operating procedures (SOPs) requiring periodic, unaided scanning when operating at low altitudes and when performing a reconnaissance of landing areas.