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Dubai lighting

Lawrence Vincent-Edwards, Head of Airfield Development at Dubai Airports, talks to Airport Focus about the recent upgrades to their AGL systems

Dubai lightingDubai International Airport (DXB) recently carried out refurbishments and upgrades to its runways, taxiways and airfield ground lighting systems (AGL). Over 800,000 tonnes of aggregates were used during the project, a staggering 1,050km of cabling and over 13,000 airfield lighting luminaires.

Of the two runways, the northern tarmac was reaching the end of its useful life, while the southern was lacking rapid exit taxiways in order to help increase capacity at the airport. Upgrades were paramount at this stage, and that inevitably had to include the AGL systems.

Lawrence Vincent-Edwards was in charge of the work and explained in an interview with Airport Focus exactly what was involved with this area of the plan. 

The previous AGL systems were adequate, of course, but it was important that they were upgraded in line with the rest of the improvements.

“During the recent refurbishment and upgrades to both of Dubai International’s runways, a number of new rapid exit and lead-on taxiways were brought into service. The expansion of the airfield lighting system with associated control and monitoring system (CMS) modifications was therefore an integral and essential component of the project. 

“The evolution from tungsten to LED light sources was recognised as being an important environmental step for the airport and as such was integrated into the airfield strategic brief and in turn concept design at the earliest stage.” 

There are of course a great deal of options when it comes to suppliers of AGL and many airport facilities will stick with the ones they have become accustomed to and had good experiences with. 

This is the case with DXB, as they opted for LED luminaires from Erni and Hella for use in the project. Both suppliers have worked closely with Dubai Airports in the past, ensuring that their products were not only compatible with the Dubai climatic environment but also critically with the incumbent Honeywell AGLCMS lighting system.

An important point to note is that the lights have now been changed for LED varieties. In recent years the technology has been at the forefront in terms of innovation, and many facilities will now only entertain the idea of LED systems when it comes to AGL. 

The life of the luminaires is substantially better than the tungsten alternatives, and this in turn decreases the man hours required when it comes to maintenance and repairs.

Lawrence said: “LED sourced lighting has made significant progress over the last couple of years, particularly with the availability of ICAO compliant runway solutions. While providing a crisper visual cue with lower energy consumption, particular care had to be taken to ensure that on our southern runway the mix of tungsten and LED light sources did not provide misleading visual cues. Therefore, in certain locations, we have needed to retain tungsten ƒ in the short term, though these will be progressively transitioned to LED in the next few years.”

With the deployment of circa 13,000 luminaires on the project, the benefit of using LEDs will include the aforementioned reduced maintenance intervention, reduced spares holding, as well as lower power consumption in the long term. A number of the airport’s stakeholder airlines have also commented positively on the clarity of the AGL system on the northern runway, which now uses LEDs extensively.

The recently completed runway refurbishment project is but one project under the SP2020 airport and airfield expansion programme. 

According to Lawrence, LEDs will continue to be deployed on both a project and business as usual replacement basis. 

He remarked that the runway refurbishment project has proven a useful experience, ‘particularly considering the potential expansion of DWC and its expansive forthcoming requirement for both luminaires and CMS’. 

The project took 80 days to undertake, which is no mean feat in terms of overhauling two runways and their associated technologies, and the wide-scale deployment of LEDs is not without risk, particularly given the short timescale in which the runway refurbishment and upgrades needed to be completed. 

“We needed to set out a safety case which outlined how the new technology was going to be deployed, it’s compliance to ICAO and local regulations as well as how it would be integrated with the new lighting system. An LED working group was established comprising numerous Dubai Airports departments, the construction teams, AGL contractor, air traffic control, home-based carriers Emirates airline and flydubai and the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority in the early stages of the project, thereby allowing the project team to understand the impacts of LEDs upon all parties,” said Lawrence. 

While there were several challenges with the deployment of LED lighting, these were overcome through the close co-operation of the various parties involved in the project. This is interesting to note if you are planning to carry out upgrades of your own in the future. This is surely an example of collaborative decision making, with all partners working together toward the same end goal, and is to be used as an example of how to achieve a great deal in a short space of time through the transparency of plans and efficient communications all round.  

The upshot of the improvements will certainly be noticeable to both pilots and controllers. Crisper visual cues will be the main benefit the LEDS provide, which for any airport facility can only be a positive step. 

With hub airports like DXB moving to LEDs, and indeed advocating the benefits of the technology, it will not be surprising to see others following suit in the future if they have not done so already. 

There is a wide range of systems available to suit the needs of airports, from single runway facilities all the way up to multi-runway hub operations, and we will certainly see an increase in their use as older models reach the end of their useful lives. 

LEDs are no longer the future – they are already here.

Planning for the 80-day closure

  • Runway resurfacing is a common occurrence with airports around the world. However, as Dubai International offers airlines a 24/7 operation, runway closures are more complex and must be meticulously planned
  • A considerable amount of advanced planning and coordination between all stakeholders was required to minimise the impact of the 80-day closure. This included construction work that could be conducted ahead of the 80-day refurbishment period
  • Pre-works included the construction of an end around taxiway to Dubai International’s northern runway. The new taxiway allows aircraft using the southern runway to taxi to the north side of the airfield, avoiding crossing over the northern runway and thus improving traffic flow on both runways both during and after the refurbishment programme
  • Other works included construction of rapid exit taxiways on both runways to reduce runway occupancy times. Most of the construction started prior to May 1 and was completed during the 80-day period
  • Dubai Airports had formed several operational and planning groups and task forces involving people from across stakeholder groups to ensure smooth transition and operations throughout the programme at both airports.
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