What Does a Gate Agent Do?
Airports · 5 min read
Although a gate agent's job might seem like a self explanatory position, it entails a lot more than you can imagine.
An airport rotating beacon is an electrical rotating light assembly that is installed on the highest point of an aerodrome or airport. Pilots use beacon lights to identify the type of airport at night or with low visibility during the day. Beacon lights are identified by pilots according to the color of light.
Pilots cannot depend entirely on the airport beacon’s operation to determine whether weather conditions are IFR or VFR. An aerodrome beacon or aeronautical beacon is a device that is a vital component of night lighting at airports.
Early on in the history of aviation, airmen did not have sophisticated cockpit instruments and flashy airport lights to guide them through the night, hence flying during sundown used to be a near-impossible mission.
However, as airmail and military flight operations started gaining momentum in the early 20th century, it was vital to keep the service in the air. To aid with nighttime navigation, Lieutenant Donald Bruner lit the first airport beacons – bonfires. Quickly, the news about the efficiency of this navigational aid spread, when airmail pilot Jack Knight successfully landed his plane in pitch dark, only guided by the bonfires.
Short after this successful night flight, new electric lighting systems began springing around the American airports. While the beginning of the beacon implementation was slow, it quickly picked up pace in 1926 with Air Commerce Act and by 1933, around 1500 were in place around the country.
A beacon is a type of visual navigation aid (NAVAID) that projects flashes of light as information to pilots in the sky. This high-beam lighting device is the simplest yet most effective means of visual communication with pilots. It’s just like a traffic signal in the sky that enables pilots to identify the location and type of airport. The FAA has developed a list of regulations for airport beacons in the United States.
Beacons marking airports, landmarks, and marks on federal airways flash at a rate of 24 to 30 times per minute. Beacons marking heliports flash at a rate of 30 to 45 times per minute. Military airports usually utilize beacons that create two fast flashes with alternating green flashes. Variations of colors help the flight crew in identifying the location and category of the airport by the color of light flash. Airport beacons are required for pilots attempting to land under VFR conditions.
Pilots learn the color spectrum and rotation of the beacon to identify the airport. An airport is identified by the color and flash of its beacon light. The following beacons are the most widely used worldwide:
If a beacon is turned on during the day, it means that the ceiling is less than 1000 feet and ground visibility is less than three statute miles. However, this practice is used by airports as a precaution and provides an extra layer of safety in communication between the cockpit crew and air traffic controllers. In Canada, the rules are a little distinctive. White single flash beacons with a rate of 20 to 30 flashes per minute are installed at lighted aerodromes.
Airport rotating beacon lights are required to be fitted at the topmost point of an airport. Therefore, it is necessary to construct the equipment with weatherproofing techniques. The casing of the lamp is designed to withstand strong winds, rainfall, snowfall, and even extreme heatwaves.
A robust rotating beacon construction should be equipped with lubricated moving parts. A high light beam lamp of at least 400W that is mounted 180° apart. The lamp housing should be adjustable between 0° and 10° above the horizon. A decent beacon should have a visual range of approximately 80 kilometers or 50 miles.
Moreover, beacons are designed according to local airport requirements, i.e., a winter airport should have proper temperature withstanding features and a snow or dust cleaning system.
Airport beacons are mounted at the highest point of the airport, so they are exposed to humidity, snowfall, rainfall, storms, and extreme temperatures. To keep the equipment working properly and safely, it is essential to maintain and inspect it regularly. A few essential maintenance procedures are regular inspection of equipment. During an inspection, the following steps should be followed.
An airport rotating beacon, also known as an aerodrome beacon or aeronautical beacon, is a beacon installed at an airport or aerodrome to identify its location to incoming pilots at night. Such beacons are mounted on top of other buildings at the airport, such as the control tower. It flashes different colors to inform pilots about the type of airport.
Yes, all airports with runway edge lighting and all heliports are required to be equipped with a functional rotating beacon.
If an airport has an operating control tower, the ATC staff can control the beacons and switch them on or off. However, in airports without the control tower, the beacons are controlled by photoelectric cells or timers.
AC 150/5345-12F-Specification for Airport and Heliport Beacons is an FAA document that indicates that the rotating beacon must be on during the night and during low visibility in the daytime, airport beacon lights must be on and function properly. Daytime operation at airports does not always require the beacons to be on and it is often up to the air traffic control personnel whether they keep the flashes turned on.
Flashing white and green lights are used at commercial airports. The colors of the beacon light help pilots identify the airport from the sky.
Airports · 5 min read
Travel during the holiday season may be daunting. As if the winter holidays aren’t stressful enough, many people also have to fly during the busiest week of the year. It is no wonder many travelers plan out their trips well in advance in an attempt to avoid the major rush. With Covid-19 no longer being […]
thanks for the question!
Depending on where you live, there might be different requirements for when the rotating beacon is turned on or off. So, first of all, you should check with the governing aviation authority in your country to see what rules apply to the beacons.
Secondly, if your airport has a fairly high volume of traffic, the beacon will most likely stay on throughout the day for navigational and safety purposes. In such case, there is not much leeway for discussions with the airport or the ATC.
Finally, your best bet is to try contacting the airport again via their customer service or someone in the airport’s management. Alternatively, you can also pay the airport a visit and try to talk to someone there.
Hope this helps!
I have a city airport that the location beacon is spinning every night. It shines the lights about 1ft off the ground. When outside it is constantly flashing in our eyes. I understand the need for this during inclement weather. I also understand that it is adjustable. I have reached out to the airport but have had no response. Is this something you can help with or do you know who I would contact.