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Ron Brooke has designed airfield

lighting to withstand the permafrost of the Canadian Arctic, the salt air and storms of the Caribbean and the baking deserts of Oman.



show pilots manoeuvring on the ground where to go.

As senior electrical project manager in WSP Genivar’s aviation team, Brooke has spent over 25 years working in this most specialised of sectors, and his first question is always the same: what are the worst possible conditions under which an airport will need to remain operational?


“Airfield lighting allows aircraft to land safely particularly in poor weather or bad visibility conditions,” he explains. “You might have an airport in a small town which doesn’t even need to operate at night, so it won’t need any lighting at all. At the other end of the scale, in places like St John’s in Newfoundland in Canada, visibility can often be severely limited but planes still have to be able to land. Generally, the poorer the visibility an airport operates under, the more lighting it needs.”

Airfield lighting systems include hundreds of individual lights, as well as the power supply and control infrastructure to support them. Typically, the lighting’s specialised power equipment is located in a field electrical centre and the control panel is in the air traffic control tower. There will usually be elevated lights along the edges of a runway. Additional lights may be set flush into the pavement along the centreline of the runway, and flush- mounted lights in the touch-down zones. Other lights in the approach to the runway help transition the pilot from their instruments, and still others indicate whether they are approaching at the correct slope. Then there’s all the lighting and signage on the taxiway and apron, to

Aside from the logistical challenges that the Arctic presents – a very narrow construction window and limited accessibility – there are also significant technical challenges for the equipment itself. “Any footings or foundations have to be compatible with the permafrost soil conditions and must be specifically designed to resist frost heaving and extreme temperature variations,” says Brooke.

Meanwhile, Caribbean installations must stand up to frequent storms: “The underground cabling, connections and equipment will often be submerged underwater and must be waterproof. Above-ground equipment needs to withstand the corrosive effects of the salt air. Plain metal structures must be avoided – everything has to be corrosion resistant.”

Systems typically have a lifespan of around 20 years, and Brooke is currently working on a number of replacement projects that capitalise on advances in LED technology. “The biggest change happening right now is the trend away from traditional incandescent lamp to modern energy- efficient LED lamps in the various airfield functions,” he says. “LEDs

LEDs offer significant energy

savings and they also save on maintenance costs as the lamps have such a long life

Ron Brooke, WSP Genivar

offer significant energy savings and they also save on maintenance costs as the lamps have such a long life.”

As well as performing design and contract administration for projects themselves, Brooke also carries out assessments for airport clients seeking to plan their future capital investments. “It can cost a couple of million dollars to replace an airfield lighting system, and many clients prefer to budget for that expenditure well in advance. We can identify when airfield lighting systems are likely to be in need of replacement, and prepare a comprehensive programme to help them plan their capital and operational budgets.”




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