The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains Advisory Circulars (ACs) that provide guidance and recommendations to airport owners and operators related to the use and movement of ground vehicles on the airport air operations area (AOA). Foremost among these is AC 150/5210-5D, “Painting, Marking, and Lighting of Vehicles Used on an Airport,” dated April 1, 2010, which identifies and defines six different types of vehicles, each with different painting, marking, and lighting requirements. Airport operations and airfield service vehicles are the only two of the six identified types of vehicles that regularly use the aircraft movement areas.
The Airport Technology Research and Development Branch at the William J. Hughes Technical Center (WJHTC) initiated a research study to evaluate the applicability of new technologies to the number marking of airport operations and airfield service vehicles that operate on the AOA. Research revealed that recent advances in vehicle marking technologies include the use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or electroluminescence to illuminate vehicle numbers. One manufacturer has adapted electroluminescent lighting technology (ELT) to develop a product that illuminates vehicle numbers for use on airport vehicles. These ELT numbers can improve the conspicuity of vehicle numbers on ground vehicles operating on the AOA at night and during low-visibility conditions.
This study includes a review of current FAA standards, a market search of commercially available vehicle number illumination systems, results of an ELT demonstration, and an assessment of the effectiveness of ELT ground vehicle numbers when viewed from varying distances and orientations. The objective of this study was to evaluate ELT numbers in improving or enhancing conspicuity of airport vehicles within the AOA. Complete findings are found in the report. Noteworthy findings include: Airports often go beyond the minimum requirements for the painting, marking, and lighting of airport vehicles. At this time, only one company has adapted ELT numbers for use on airport vehicles, and ELT numbers are being used at only some airports. Based on a demonstration, 19-inch ELT side numbers are legible at 1100 feet during the day and when illuminated at night. ELT numbers on vehicles are visible at night but do not increase the legibility distances available during daytime because the limits of human visual acuity. Rooftop number legibility is reduced due to effective height and varying orientations of vehicles impose limitations on the effectiveness to Air Traffic Control. Rooftop number legibility is maximized when viewed from directly above the vehicle.
Authors: White, James; Healy, Joe; and Subbotin, Nicholas