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runway lighting question

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New member
Apr 26, 2002
I'm referring to airports that do not operate 24 hours. What is the terminology that describes runway lighting systems that illuminate and dim / brighten on radio command. What frequencies do they use? The approach frequency or a seperate frequency? How long do they stay lit once activated?

I'm just learning about these things, so excuse the ignorance... thanks in advance,

Al Sutherland
Pilot Controlled Lighting

Number of clicks on the CTAF/Unicom
3 for Low
5 for Med
7 for High

They stay on for fifteen minutes.
There is no set rule. The information above is accurate although there can be many variations. I read about an accident in which the frequency for operating the PCL was switched from the unicom frequency to the tower frequency and an instrument pilot thought he had turned them on but when he came down out of the clouds he couldn't see anything and consequently had some kind of mishap. I don't remember all the details.

Read the AIM as suggested. Read your private and commercial flight manuals as well as the FAA publications. The best thing is to use a CURRENT edition of the Aiport/Facility Directory and it should tell you which frequency to use.

Some airports have lighting which must be requested by phone call before you arrive. Others have only one or two set intensities, not all three. Some have different settings for the approach lights and the runway lights.

When you are looking for the airport you can turn them all the way up to help you find it and then turn them down on final to help you land.

I don't know if all airports are fifteen minutes but that's the number I know. If you turned them on when you first called in and it takes you longer than that to arrive they may go out when in the pattern, or worse, in the flare. Another good reason to reset them on final.

Always listen to the traffic frequency to see if anybody else is using the airspace. Nothing like being on final with the lights turned down so you can see better and some thoughtless individual cranks them up to full intensity just as you are landing.

Once again, don't get careless and stop perusing the A/FD.

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