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Airfield lighting: greener by design

Friday, October 16, 2009

Airfield infrastructure projects may hoover up large quantities of cash but they are also long-term and safety oriented. That is why - despite airlines cutting routes, reducing frequencies, deferring or cancelling aircraft orders, and seeing their passenger and cargo numbers slump - it is not difficult to spot lighting projects being undertaken at large and small airports around the world.

In spite of these impecunious times, investment in the world's airports continues, partly because there is little doubt that commercial aviation is on a growth path regardless of the dips, cycles and general economic malaise of the moment.

And even though cash is hard to come by, anyone spending money on airfield projects is greening up their plans and making sure that not only do their airfield projects meet regulatory, safety and commercial objectives; but they also have the appropriate green credentials.

The Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina is a case in point. A grant from North Carolina's Department of Transportation's Division of Aviation will partially fund the replacement of more than 2,000 runway and taxiway lights. "We are installing runway centerline and touchdown zone lights (east and west side), taxiway edge and centerline lights (west side), airfield guidance signs (entire airfield), raceways/wiring (west side) and lighting control equipment (Vault 2).  As you'll remember, the east side taxiway edge and centerline lights, raceways/wiring, as well as the Vault 1 lighting control equipment, were replaced last year under project 080539.  All work is replacement/modernisation work.  The lights installed last year and the lights and signs being installed this year are all LED," says Andrew Sawyer, spokesperson at Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority.

ADB, a Siemens company, is the supplier for all lights and equipment being installed and Barnes & Powell Electrical Company out of Elm City, NC is the contractor.  This is true for the equipment/lights being installed this year as well as the equipment and lights that were installed last year. Construction funding is a combination of stimulus money under the ARRA grant program (at least $4.5M), NC State grant money (at least $2.5M), and $278,000 in Authority funds.

When asked about the "green" element, Sawyer responds: "Direct electricity savings are about 50% over previous usage.  The larger savings is in maintenance costs though.  This involves less wear and tear on vehicles, less replacement of lights, and considerably less labour.  The payback calculates at less than three years using the Siemens online calculators.  At this point, the maintenance savings are proven with the lights already installed on the east side of the airfield.  By this time, we would have had to replace the bulbs in every quartz fixture (on average they're replaced twice per year), but thanks to the LED's installed there, we've not had a problem, or had to touch a single LED fixture in nearly one year now. We don't expect to have to replace the LED fixtures for over 10 years."

Solar lighting is also finding favour for runway lighting. Trinidad's Piarco International Airport is a case in point. It has recently upgraded its runways with Carmanah Solar-LED airfield lights. Valued at approximately $300,000, the order included Carmanah A704-5 runway edge lights, approach lights and threshold lights, as well as A702 taxiway lights, mounting hardware and wireless handheld radio remote-control equipment.  Located in Piarco, about 25km east of the capital city, Port of Spain, Piarco International Airport is Trinidad`s largest and most modern airport, accommodating nearly three million travellers each year.

Marsh Harbour International Airport in Abaco, Bahamas is also upgrading with solar-powered aviation lights from Carmanah Technologies. As the first phase of a facility-wide expansion and upgrade, the airport has constructed a new 6,100-foot asphalt-paved runway and parallel taxiway that will be equipped with Carmanah solar-powered A704-5 approach lights, A704-5 runway edge lights, and A601 taxiway lights.

Additionally, a successful pilot project has been undertaken at Orlando International Airport. Energy Smart Industry (ESI), a company based in Florida and New York, is in talks to redesign an undisclosed portion of Orlando International Airport with an innovative energy-saving LED lighting system. The pilot lighting project was installed in May 2009 to show what this technology could do to enhance lighting and costs throughout the airport.

The glut of airport improvement programmes around the world is giving lighting companies the opportunity to demonstrate how cost effective, green and maintenance-light this industry is becoming.

For example, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is undergoing a runway extension project at a cost of nearly $30 million over the next five years. The programme includes the extension of Runway 7R approximately 1,500 feet to the west, including all associated lighting, drainage, embankment, pavement, subgrade preparation, fencing and approach lighting system.

Staying in North America, earlier this year, Siemens Airfield Solutions announced that it has provided runway lighting, power, and two control systems for Chicago O'Hare, Seattle-Tacoma, and Washington Dulles International Airports' recent runway openings. The new runway openings at three of the nation's busiest airports created the largest increase in aviation capacity in more than 10 years. The new runways will boost capacity by an additional 330,000 take-offs and landings each year, helping to reduce congestion and delays at these active airports.

Chicago O'Hare installed approximately 250 LED taxiway centre line lights, 350 LED elevated taxiway edge lights, 160 runway centre line lights, 360 runway touchdown zone lights and 65 in-pavement guard lights on the new 7,500-foot 9L-27R runway and associated taxiways. Four Switchgear Regular Systems containing 71 regulators were installed in the new south airfield electrical vault, providing power to the airfield lighting circuits.

The new 8,500ft third runway at Seattle-Tacoma - 16R/34L - allows the airport to accommodate two simultaneous staggered arrivals in poor weather, reducing delays by as much as 60%. For the third runway project, Siemens Airfield Solutions provided a new runway and taxiway lighting and control system. A PLC Touchscreen control system was installed in the existing air traffic control tower and in the new power regulator vault building, which holds 70 new ferroresonant constant current regulators from Siemens. The new runway and taxiway lighting system comprise over 1,300 F-Range series L-850/L-852 in-pavement fixtures and almost 200 L-862Q/L-804 runway guard light/L-861T elevated fixtures.

Washington-Dulles Int'l Airport recently opened its fourth runway, 1L/19R, which the airport predicts can accommodate up to 100,000 additional aircraft operations per year and decrease delays. The new 9,400-foot runway was installed with more than 750 F-Range runway fixtures from SAS and more than 1100 elevated and in-pavement taxiway fixtures on associated taxiways. The new fourth runway project also involved the installation of 20 constant current regulars and 67 airfield signs.

In Europe, Safegate Group has been collaborating with Budapest Ferihegy Airport since 1984 when the company provided a first generation of aircraft parking systems.  Twelve years later the airport invested in the Safedock advanced visual docking guidance system. Now, Safegate Group and Budapest Airport have extended the collaboration towards the airfield environment. Safegate Group was contracted to supply its Airfield Smart Power airfield lighting solution for the first time along with Thorn airfield lights.

Safegate has also been working with Vigo International Airport in the mountains of northwest Spain. The airport has a CAT II/III status where heavy fog is an issue. To solve this problem the airport evaluated a number of control and monitoring systems, and AENA (the Spanish Airport Authority) chose the ASP system from Safegate. The project aims to control and monitor all light functions at the airport: approach, threshold and runway end, runway edge and centre line, stop bars and taxiway centre line. In total, 940 lights will be controlled.

Airports in every part of the globe are undertaking runway lighting projects to ensure infrastructure does not contribute to safety issues. At Sydney Airport, a $51 million airport ground lighting upgrade has been completed. The CEO of Sydney Airport, Russell Balding, said that the lighting system was an essential part of the airport's aeronautical infrastructure and ensured the safety of aviation operations.

In Western Australia, the extension of the Port Hedland International airport's runway end safety area (RESA) was completed in June 2009. The project saw the RESA extended by a further 90m to comply with International Civil Aviation Organisation safety standards which were adopted by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for international airports in Australia.

Mayor Stan Martin said the RESA intends to minimise harm to passengers in the unlikely event that a plane over runs or lands short of a runway: "The Council is interested in all measures that will enhance the level of safety for the airport as well as for the travelling public.  This important project goes hand in hand with a number of lighting upgrades completed at the airport during the past months." Ground lighting upgrades included the installation of a new PAPI; the installation of new lights and extension of taxiway lights on main apron; and lighting improvement on the northern side of the general aviation apron.

The AB Won Pat International Airport Authority is in the last phase of its runway extension project with the recent award of $15.9 million to complete the extension of Runway 24R. This last phase will add an additional 1,000ft to the 24R end of the main runway. Completion of the extension of Runway 24R is the culmination of a series of projects worth over $57 million in airfield improvements that will increase capacity and safety at Guam's Airport. The airfield lighting systems alone cost $6 million.

The City of Nanaimo, located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, has also recently announced plans to expand its existing airport and cruise ship terminal. The airport expansion project, scheduled for completion by 2018, will be done in two to three phases. The first phase will be the runway extension valued at $16.4 million. It is scheduled for completion by 2009 and will extend the existing runway to 6,600ft, providing larger commercial aircraft the ability to land. In addition to expanding the runway, new high intensity runway lighting, as well as improved navigational instruments will be installed, ensuring commercial and private aircraft can land in inclement weather such as dense fog in the winter months.

It is fair to say that runway lighting project not only continue to be abundant; they are also diverse.  And although green imperatives continue to drive research and development in this area, the key imperative is always enhanced safety ... and this will always be the case.