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Pilot Awareness of Current and LED Elevated Runway Guard Lighting

PI John French

Since airports require efficient use of limited funding, thus reducing annual operations costs is an important concern. A potentially dramatic way to reduce the cost associated with airport operations is to replace current incandescent lighting with light-emitting diode (LED) lights.

Currently, incandescent lights are used at airports worldwide for approach, taxiway, centerline, touchdown, and other lighting needs. Data from commercial packaging of typical lights indicates that the average lifespan of an LED is about 60,000 hours compared to about 1,500 hours for incandescent lights. The cost in the reduction of replacement lights alone would make switching to LED more cost effective than retaining the current incandescent lights (Casserly, 2008). However, in addition, the cost per kilowatt hour for incandescent lights is about 10 times more than LED lights, further supporting a switch to LED (Van Horn, 2004).

The FAA is considering a new LED light for Elevated Runway Guard Lighting (ERGL), one of the taxiway lights used to indicate a holding position before entering the runway (Gallagher, 2009). The primary purpose of these guard lights is to reduce the incidence of runway incursions regardless of the type of light used. If it could be shown that no loss of pilot awareness of the ERGL occurred with an LED, then LED lights might replace other runway lighting fixtures at substantial cost reductions for airport operations. The purpose of the study outlined in this project is to evaluate pilot awareness of the new LED lights, to determine if they are as visible as the older lighting, distractingly more visible or not different at all, from the pilot's perspective.


  • John French
    Human Factors and Behavioral Neurobiology
    Ph.D., M.S., Colorado State University

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