Seeking greater energy efficiency in all areas of operations, airports are looking for environmentally friendly runway lighting solutions without compromising on safety. Future Airport talks to James Selm, associate product line manager at Crouse-Hinds Airport Lighting Products, about how his company's LED runway lamps are allowing operators to thread the needle between the two.
To passengers peering through the windows of a plane, the visual experience of a night landing is a step into the abstract. The occasional object on the ground might be placed, myriad points of light dimly illuminating the contours of a house or a road but, usually, everything appears formless until the final moments of descent. The pilot, meanwhile, is trained to know which ground markers to look for. Having flown the plane this far with the aid of the onboard navigation system, the pilot spots a row of runway lights located precisely where the in-flight guidance system has told him it would be and safely sets down.
In this situation, a constant flow of power from the grid or the airport generators to the lighting fixtures is not just necessary - it's essential. Eaton's Crouse-Hinds Airport Lighting Products has a history of ensuring that the power always gets to where it's needed on the runway.
"Eaton hasa great many products to support various portions of the power-management process," says James Selm, the company's associate product line manager. "They run the gamut - from power distribution and circuit protection to solutions for harsh and hazardous environments - where our division really comes into play."
For Crouse-Hinds, the next great development in airport lighting involves the fusion of reliability with energy efficiency. That wasn't always possible with power-hungry incandescent bulbs, but with recent advances made in LED technology, the company is phasing out its old product line in favour of the more environmentally friendly option it provides.
"This priority is embodied in our PRO APF line," says Selm. "Its energy efficiency derives from its 99% power factor, meaning that there's almost no loss between the electricity that goes into the fixture from the isolation transformer to the energy consumed by the LEDs themselves. The LED driver, or as we call it, the universal power platform, doesn't consume any extra energy."
To enable airport operators to maximise their options in runway lighting, Crouse-Hinds ensures that the majority of its fixtures follow a modular design. "Our products are made in such a way that an airport operator is able to break down one of our fixtures, interchange it with another of our products, do some simple recalibration of the operation of the power platform and reintroduce it as a new fixture on the runway," explains Selm.
This is possible without bypassing the stringent rules on lighting capabilities mandated by international regulators.
"All of our different fixtures are made from a very common pool of components, and we've made sure to have every
single part abide by stringent safety rules, irrespective of its location," says Selm. "That means that any one of our products that's refurbished for another application by an airport operator therefore remains internationally certified, no matter what application our clients choose to meet with it."
In this respect, Crouse-Hinds has drawn upon the expertise of its parent company, Eaton, and in particular, its large engineering services department.
"We've been able to interact with those departments and develop some cross training so that, in some locations, we've been able to work with Eaton's engineering teams in rapid, on-site management and maintenance solutions," Selm explains. "And on the design end, we're constantly having discussions with teams in other divisions within Eaton on how to adapt the technological innovations into devices such as our constant current regulators and control monitoring equipment. It's made us a stronger division overall."
The company's headquarters are in Connecticut, and experiencing the state's harsh winters also acts as a yearly reminder to its engineers that durability in their fixtures is vital.
"We have a great track record here in the US, as well as in northern Europe and Asia, of working through the difficulties naturally presented by snow and ice," explains Selm. "When operators attempt to clear away the snow at their runways, it can often lead to accidents that are perfectly avoidable.
"We've been able to incorporate a lot of the lessons we've learnt over 15-20 years of perfecting our incandescent line to make a very durable fixture that's deployed in some of the highest-usage areas in the world."
It is this triad of features - energy efficiency, modular design and durability - that has led Crouse-Hinds to become one of the premier suppliers of airport lighting fixtures the world over, with its products in use in more than 175 countries.
"Certainly, these features are particularly helpful to our customers in regions as climactically diverse as they are numerous," says Selm. "As aircraft continue to develop in size and speed, and safety requirements become more stringent, we're really excited to share our technology with many new customers and to continue supporting our existing clientele in solving their lighting challenges."