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AIM 

6/17/21 

a. 

With FAA approved systems, various combina-

tions of medium intensity approach lights, runway 
lights, taxiway lights, VASI and/or REIL may be 
activated by radio control. On runways with both 
approach lighting and runway lighting (runway edge 
lights, taxiway lights, etc.) systems, the approach 
lighting system takes precedence for air

to

ground 

radio control over the runway lighting system which 
is set at a predetermined intensity step, based on 
expected visibility conditions. Runways without 
approach lighting may provide radio controlled 
intensity adjustments of runway edge lights. Other 
lighting systems, including VASI, REIL, and taxiway 
lights may be either controlled with the runway edge 
lights or controlled independently of the runway edge 
lights. 

b. 

The control system consists of a 3

step control 

responsive to 7, 5, and/or 3 microphone clicks. This 
3

step control will turn on lighting facilities capable 

of either 3

step, 2

step or 1

step operation. The 

3

step and 2

step lighting facilities can be altered in 

intensity, while the 1

step cannot. All lighting is 

illuminated for a period of 15 minutes from the most 
recent time of activation and may not be extinguished 
prior to end of the 15 minute period (except for 1

step 

and 2

step REILs which may be turned off when 

desired by keying the mike 5 or 3 times respectively). 

c. 

Suggested use is to always initially key the mike 

7 times; this assures that all controlled lights are 
turned on to the maximum available intensity. If 
desired, adjustment can then be made, where the 
capability is provided, to a lower intensity (or the 
REIL turned off) by keying 5 and/or 3 times. Due to 
the close proximity of airports using the same 
frequency, radio controlled lighting receivers may be 
set at a low sensitivity requiring the aircraft to be 
relatively close to activate the system. Consequently, 
even when lights are on, always key mike as directed 
when overflying an airport of intended landing or just 
prior to entering the final segment of an approach. 
This will assure the aircraft is close enough to activate 
the system and a full 15 minutes lighting duration is 
available. Approved lighting systems may be 
activated by keying the mike (within 5 seconds) as 
indicated in TBL 2

1

3. 

TBL 2

1

Radio Control System 

Key Mike 

Function 

7 times within 5 seconds 

Highest intensity available 

5 times within 5 seconds 

Medium or lower intensity 
(Lower REIL or REIL

off) 

3 times within 5 seconds 

Lowest intensity available 
(Lower REIL or REIL

off) 

d. 

For all public use airports with FAA standard 

systems the Chart Supplement U.S. contains the types 
of lighting, runway and the frequency that is used to 
activate the system. Airports with IAPs include data 
on the approach chart identifying the light system, the 
runway on which they are installed, and the frequency 
that is used to activate the system. 

NOTE

 

Although the CTAF is used to activate the lights at many 
airports, other frequencies may also be used. The 
appropriate frequency for activating the lights on the 
airport is provided in the Chart Supplement U.S. and the 
standard instrument approach procedures publications. It 
is not identified on the sectional charts. 

e. 

Where the airport is not served by an IAP, it may 

have either the standard FAA approved control 
system or an independent type system of different 
specification installed by the airport sponsor. The 
Chart Supplement U.S. contains descriptions of pilot 
controlled lighting systems for each airport having 
other than FAA approved systems, and explains the 
type lights, method of control, and operating 
frequency in clear text. 

2

1

9.  Airport/Heliport Beacons 

a. 

Airport and heliport beacons have a vertical 

light distribution to make them most effective from 
one to ten degrees above the horizon; however, they 
can be seen well above and below this peak spread. 
The beacon may be an omnidirectional capacitor

dis-

charge device, or it may rotate at a constant speed 
which produces the visual effect of flashes at regular 
intervals. Flashes may be one or two colors 
alternately. The total number of flashes are: 

1. 

24 to 30 per minute for beacons marking 

airports, landmarks, and points on Federal airways. 

2. 

30 to 45 per minute for beacons marking 

heliports. 

2

1

12 

Airport Lighting Aids