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Fun Fact Friday: The runways at YVR used to be lit by car headlights

YVR opened in 1931. In that year, just over 1,000 passengers flew in and out of YVR on 300 flights. (compared to nearly 17 million today).
The airport was a lot smaller in 1931. It was known as the Vancouver Civic Airport and Sea Plane Harbour, It only had one runway and four small aircraft.
There was no airfield lighting, no radio, no weather forecasting, and no air traffic control. The first runway lights were turned on in 1936. Before then, people who lived nearby who owned a car would respond to radio calls from the airport asking for help to light the runway with their headlights so aircraft could land in the dark.

  • Different colors of runway/taxi way lights indicate different surfaces. The green light indicates a taxiway/apron center line. Pilots follow a green line while taxiing.
  • Blue lights indicate taxi way edges, Red Lights indicate an approach and end of a runway. White lights mark the centerline, touchdown zone, and edge of a runway.
  • YVR has approximately 2500 runway lights.
  • North Runway has approximately 561 runway lights while the South Runway has approximately 600 runway lights
  • Other lights on the airfield include, approach lights, stop lights, and lights on signage.
    Maintenance is done by YVR MTE-a team of electricians and millwrights.
  • LED lights like the one we are using, can last more than 20000 hours. They are more efficient but cannot be used for runway lights.
  • Cost of the inlet taxiway light we have range from 400$-900$ each.
  • Our airfield lighting at YVR complies with Transport Canada Regulations.
  • The only lights which stay on 24/7 are runway guard lights.
  • Runway guard lights:  A light system intended to caution pilots or vehicle drivers that they are about to enter an active runway.
  • Air traffic controllers have control over runway lighting and can turn them on and off as needed.
    Snow and fog can cause low visibility on the runways. Air Traffic controllers can increase the brightness as needed. They can also turn on the red stop bars that indicate entrance points to the runway

BONUS SUPER MEGA FUN FACT: Airfield lighting is run by constant current rather than constant voltage. Airfield lighting circuits are wired in series rather than parallel the way old Christmas tree lights use to be. The reason that only one light goes out instead of the entire string is because each airfield light has its own isolation transformer.

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