Airport Beacons

Airports and heliports are made visible from a distance by the use of beacons, which provide the pilot with flashes of alternating colors. These colors indicate the type of airport or heliport associated with the beacon.

  • White/Green: Civil land airport
  • White/White/Green: Military airport
  • White/Yellow: Civil water airport
  • Green/Yellow/White: Heliport

Airport beacons are normally activated at night and during periods of instrument weather conditions. Beacon operation during the daytime at an airport in class B, C, D, or E airspace is an indication of instrument weather conditions.

Control of Airport Lighting

At many airports, the runways and taxiways are lit continuously from dusk to dawn. At other airports, pilot controlled lighting allows the airport lighting to be turned off when it is not in use.

Pilots activate pilot controlled lighting by keying the microphone 3, 5, or 7 times within 5 seconds over a prescribed frequency. The frequency used is normally the common traffic advisory frequency for the airport. However, this is not always the case.

Keying the microphone three times sets the lighting to low intensity. Five clicks sets the lighting to medium, and seven clicks sets the lights to high intensity. If an airport only has LIRL, then it will not be capable of being set to medium or high intensity. Three, five, and seven clicks will still result in low intensity. Similarly, MIRL are only capable of being set to low or medium intensities.

Pilot controlled airport lighting normally turns off 15 minutes after it is activated automatically. A normal practice is to key the mike seven times, in order to activate the airport lighting to the highest available intensity. This aids in spotting the airport at the greatest distance. As the aircraft approaches the runway, the lighting intensity is reduced, if desired, or reset to the same intensity. This ensures the airport lighting will not automatically turn off when you are on short final or during the landing roll.

At towered airports, make requests for lighting adjustments to the control tower.