Advances In LED Airport Lighting

- Jun 24, 2019-

As mentioned, a high quality LED fixture can produce a higher CRI which provides several advantages on the airport apron for those performing important tasks.  For instance, baggage handlers often make routing decisions based on sorting tags containing colors.  Fueling specialists use color to discern different fuel types.  Those familiar with Avgas formulations will recognize three colors: green, blue, and purple, which are present in piston aircraft fuel types, while turbine engine colors are typically straw, clear, or red.  Aircraft maintenance performed on the apron often includes recognizing specific colors of wires, hoses, and connectors.  Since many apron workers have intimate access to the planes, lighting is important for face recognition and security observation.

Airport apron lighting is extraordinarily important because of its close proximity to the active airfield.  Adequately lighting this area is only part of the goal.  Equally important is the light control from the apron to minimize glare and spillover into areas where it is not appreciated and can be dangerous.  Pilot directed glare can diminish the visibility of ground lighting, directional signs, and painted markings on the airfield.  Tower directed glare, backscatter, and reflections can distract tower personnel and make it harder to see past the apron into the generally dark active airfield area.  

Aircraft or service vehicles receiving direct illumination are highly reflective, often with a mirror-like finish.  Specular surfaces like this can cause quite a glare and the solution is to illuminate with multiple light fixtures and from a large number of LED elements within those fixtures.  Distributing the light to come from many sources means that at any one instant the glare is only from a small percentage of the overall illumination sum.  The multiple source approach also minimizes shadows and leads to better overall uniformity.  

When the apron pavement is covered in snow, it may be necessary to dim or stagger lighting for the benefit of the tower.  Being able to dim and control the apron lighting remotely is becoming more popular for these reasons.  When designing the lighting systems, both maintenance and control of the lighting system should be considered.  SpecGrade LED products can be configured with the LED drivers located up to 100 feet away from the LEDs.  This may be convenient for centralized controls between poles or simply to keep the LED drivers more accessible so that service can be performed without giving up the entire area to a boom truck.