Just as lighthouses once guided ships to harbor, a rotating beacon at airports guide planes trying to land. After receiving a Federal Aviation Administration grant in the amount of approximately $240,000, the Tucker Guthrie Memorial Airport now has a flashing beacon, runway lights and an illuminated windsock.
“Ordinarily, airport lights are used from twilight at dusk until the following dawn,” said Harlan Airport Board Chairman Mark Miracle. “If weather conditions become unfavorable in the daytime and visibility becomes challenging, beacons will also be used to signal pilots the need to use their instruments for landing and takeoff rather than relying upon visual guidance.”
Miracle said the most important types of airport lights are runway lights. He said airport lights shine at different levels of intensity and are many different colors.
“These colors are significant and very important to safety and airport operations,” said Miracle. “Some colors designate the type of airport a pilot is flying into. Green and white lights are used at civilian airports, while green and white flashing beacons are used at military bases. Without the proper lighting, there would be utter catastrophe on the runways of an airport, as planes wouldn’t know where they were supposed to go, or the length of a particular runway they are supposed to take off from or land upon.”
Miracle said the Harlan airport’s runway is now bordered by white elevated lights on both sides.
He said pilots using the Harlan airport must rely upon instrument approach procedures, so the last several hundred feet of the runway is indicated by amber edge lights.
“There is a threshold of approach at the beginning of each runway. This is the most critical area of the runway because it designates where the plane’s final descent must begin,” said Miracle. “Strobe lights are used here to mark its location. These lights are crucial to the safe landing of planes due to the way that angle of descent and the speed of the plane will distort the perspective of the runway and its true distance from the plane. The runway end identifier lights, with its white bars and flashing strobe lights, provides clearly differentiated visible cues that allow the pilot to line up the plane for landing and designate where the end of the runway is. We are the first airport in the state to have LED runway lights, which will show a very small increase in our electric bills.”
Miracle said lights in the pavement at the end of the runway were also installed indicating the end of the runway.
He said blue taxiway lights, used to differentiate between adjoining taxiways and the runway itself, were installed to assist pilots leaving the runway.
“These lights have been needed for years and years at the Harlan Airport,” said Miracle. “The illuminated windsock is a great help to pilots so they can see the direction of the wind allowing them pertinent information on how to land their planes. You can see the beacon from 20-30 miles away, which helps you find our airport and once you get in closer you’ll see the runway lights especially at night or inclement weather. We took advantage of this grant because if we hadn’t the funds would have gone to another airport. These improvements are an asset to Harlan County and will definitely save lives.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, firstname.lastname@example.org