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Airport Beacons

by Flight Learnings

in Airport Operations

Airport beacons help a pilot identify an airport at night. The beacons are operated from dusk till dawn. Sometimes they are turned on if the ceiling is less than 1,000 feet and/or the ground visibility is less than 3 statute miles (VFR minimums). However, there is no requirement for this, so a pilot has the responsibility of determining if the weather meets VFR requirements. The beacon has a vertical light distribution to make it most effective from 1–10° above the horizon, although it can be seen well above or below this spread. The beacon may be an omnidirectional capacitor-discharge device, or it may rotate at a constant speed, which produces the visual effect of flashes at regular intervals. The combination of light colors from an airport beacon indicates the type of airport. [Figure 13-6] Some of the most common beacons are:

Figure 13-6. Airport rotating beacons.

Figure 13-6. Airport rotating beacons.

  • Flashing white and green for civilian land airports;
  • Flashing white and yellow for a water airport;
  • Flashing white, yellow, and green for a heliport; and
  • Two quick white flashes alternating with a green flash identifying a military airport.

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