In nautical navigation, lighthouses are used to inform sailors of upcoming ports or to warn them of dangerous rocky coastlines, reefs, or sandy shoals that may be difficult to see in high tide. The iconic rotating flashlight on a high tower warns maritime sailors or ship captains of the environmental dangers, allowing them to avoid collision and possible damages. The same principles apply for aviation navigation. Tall buildings and large telecommunication towers pose as serious safety hazards to pilots the same way a rocky cliff would to a sailor. Therefore, there is a distinct need for some sort of warning system for pilots and navigators of the skies. This is where aircraft warning lights come into play. Essentially, the warning lights are put in place in order to notify the pilots that there is an object that could be in their way.
Aircraft warning lights are affixed to the tops of tall buildings and telecommunication towers. The higher the structure, brighter the lights have to be in order to meet regulations. This is completed by increasing the number of lights used as well as the intensity of each light. These regulations are monitored and measured by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). These two organizations work together to make sure that structures that could be potential hazards to aircraft display the proper warning lights, according to both federal and international regulations.
The number of lights on the sides of the building is dependent on the area that the base of the building covers. The higher the building the more warning lights there needs to be and higher intensity they need to be. Buildings over 150 meters tall need to be affixed with high intensity lights that are visible during both day and night. Buildings over 45 meters tall are required to have a white LED strobe light, and buildings under 45 meters tall are required to have a fixed red light that only needs to be visible at night.
Imagine if on a cloudy night with low visibility, a Boeing 747 needs to do an emergency landing in a field, unaware that there are a multitude of telecommunication towers nearby; consequently, the plane crashes into the towers, causing an electrical fire amongst all else. Although the reality of this situation is extremely unlikely, there needs to be a failsafe for if and when a situation like this occurs.
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