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Accession Number PB2013-101356
Title Evaluation of New Obstruction Lighting Techniques to Reduce Avian Fatalities.
Publication Date May 2012
Media Count 64p
Personal Author J. W. Patterson
Abstract Wildlife biologists have conducted extensive research to better understand how migratory birds are negatively affected by obstruction lights, which are used at night to warn pilots that they are approaching an obstruction hazard. The research concluded that migratory birds appear to be attracted to the steady-burning (i.e., nonflashing) obstruction lights on communication towers and, as a result, thousands of birds are killed annually through collisions with these obstructions. Wildlife organizations, the telecommunication industry, and the Federal Communication Commission collectively approached the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and requested that the FAA consider redefining their standards for obstruction lighting to either omit or flash the normally steady-burning red lights to reduce their impact on the mortality rates of migratory birds. In the research reported here, the FAA Airport Technology Research and Development Team evaluated the proposal to omit or flash the normally steady-burning red lights. In addition, researchers evaluated the potential benefit of using light-emitting diode obstruction lights instead of conventional incandescent obstruction lights as a way to mitigate their impact on birds, due to their unique color and flash pattern. A series of flight evaluations was conducted to compare the obstruction lighting on several communication towers in the northern Michigan area. A tower that was equipped with a nonstandard lighting configuration in which the steady-burning red lights were programmed to flash in unison with the red flashing lights was also included in the flight evaluation. The results showed that flashing the steady-burning lights was acceptable for small towers (151 to 350 feet in height) and that they could be omitted on taller towers (over 351 feet) so long as the remaining brighter, flashing lights were operational. The optimal flash rate for the brighter lights to flash simultaneously was determined to be between 27 and 33 flashes per minute (fpm). Flashing at slower speeds (under 27 fpm) did not provide the necessary conspicuity for pilots to clearly acquire the obstruction at night without the steady-burning lights, and flashing at faster speeds (over 33 fpm), the lights were not off long enough to be less of an attractant to migratory birds. Based on the results of this research, the FAA proposes to make specific changes to the obstruction lighting standards, including a proposal to omit or flash steady-burning red lights from several obstruction lighting configurations.
Keywords Accident reduction
Aviation safety
Collision avoidance
Lighting equipment
Migratory birds
Obstruction lights
Tower lighting
Warning signals
Wildlife management

Source Agency Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration
NTIS Subject Category 85D - Transportation Safety
85A - Air Transportation
48B - Natural Resource Management
Corporate Author William J. Hughes Technical Center, Atlantic City, NJ.
Document Type Technical report
Title Note Technical note.
NTIS Issue Number 1302
Contract Number N/A

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