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October 26, 2017
Structures that protrude into the sky, depending on their height, can create serious safety hazards for aircraft that must navigate around them. Regulations involving these structures are rigorously enforced, and are dictated by the Federal Aviation Administration, whose mission is to ensure the safety of not only the flying public, but of any aircraft that travels into U.S. airspace. The regulations include requirements for painting, lighted markers and lights.
Any structure taller than 200 feet is subject to FAA lighting requirements. Structures that are shorter than this height may also require lighting, depending on the structure's location. Some lighting requirements are determined by FAA aeronautical studies of the area in which the structure will be located. These studies may also determine that a structure of the proscribed height requiring lighting, may not present an aviation hazard without the lighting.
Other structures may present such a great hazard that higher lighting standards may be required. Lighting recommendations may vary depending on the terrain, geographic location, weather patterns, or for wind turbines, the number of turbines and the layout of the design.
Structures anchored by guy wires are particularly important because FAA regulations require pilots to fly at least 500 feet from man-made structures, and the method of attaching guy wires requires planes clear them by 2,000 feet horizontally. Guy wires are difficult to see until a plane is dangerously close to them, and thus require lighting that makes them more conspicuous.
There are various types of lighting available to ensure that your structure is sufficiently conspicuous to meet FAA guidelines. Some are flashing, some are red others are white. They are designed to be used at different times of the day or for different reasons. They also vary in intensity. The two colors of lights required are red or white. They must be of low, medium or high intensity. Dual lighting may be required. Lights may have to blink or be steady. The height of the structure above ground level (AGL), determines the type of lighting necessary.
During the night, aviation red flashing beacons and/or steady burning beacons must be used on required structures. On structures 200 feet AGL or more, medium-intensity, white, flashing lights may be used in daylight and twilight hours, but the intensity must be reduced at night. High-intensity flashing lights may be used during daytime or twilight hours if they are automatically reduced at night. This is not recommended for structures 500 feet AGL or less, unless an aeronautical study determines otherwise. Dual lighting systems use red lights for nighttime and medium- or high-intensity flashing lights for daytime and twilight.
During construction, when the structure reaches the height at which permanent lighting would be required, two or more high- or medium-intensity white lights should be installed at that level and should be operated 24 hours a day. In urban areas, where there are white street lights, the red obstruction lights with painting or the dual system of medium-intensity lighting is recommended.