The Bright Lights of Sydney

The installation of new high and medium intensity edge lights on Sydney’s runway 07/25 was carried out as part of a AUS$51m lighting project. (James Morgan/SYD)

Australia’s premier airport has completed a giant lighting upgrade.  Tom Allett explains.

The installation of new high and medium intensity edge lights on Sydney’s runway 07/25 was carried out as part of a AUS$51m lighting project. (James Morgan/SYD)

Sydney Airport has successfully completed a $51 million programme to upgrade airport ground lighting involving runways 16R/34L, 07/25, 16L/34R and all the taxiways on the airfield.  Incandescent lights were installed at all locations.
The work involved many individual projects, all of which both enhanced the airport’s existing lighting facilities and met Airbus A380 operational compliance rules.
In terms of work carried out to enhance its low visibility capability, this involved the installation of transmissometers to improve the reliability of information given to ATC during poor visibility conditions; thereby reducing the allowed operating visibility minima to 550 metres.  Runway guard lights were also installed at all runway/taxiway intersections and lighting for new intermediate holding positions on taxiways was provided.
Projects to enhance the lighting system’s reliability included upgrading the taxiway lighting for compliance purposes, and installing a new cabling system with circuit re-cabling to all runways and major taxiways. (James Morgan/SYD)

At the same time, in order to give the required clearance for A380 operations, the holding points on runways 07/25 and 16R/34L were relocated to be 352.7ft (107.5m) from their respective centrelines.
Projects to enhance the lighting system’s reliability included upgrading taxiway lighting for compliance purposes, plus the installation of a new cabling system with circuit re-cabling to all runways and major taxiways.  This involved removing the buried primary circuits and placing the new cable in pits and ducts.
On Runway 16R/34L, the centreline lights, plus its high and medium intensity edge lights were replaced, along with the high and medium edge lights for 07/25.  Both strips have been provided with new and flatter runway inset lights to prevent persistent damage to lights along their respective edges
Six lighting room upgrades were carried out while the then ageing Central Lighting Equipment Room was decommissioning, and finally demolished.
Upgraded Movement Areas Guidance Signs (MAGS) were installed at all 42 runway/taxiway entrances, which now include Take Off Runway Available (TORA) information, while Precision Approach Path Indicators (PAPIs) were installed on runways 07/25, 16R/34L and 16L/34R replacing existing  T-Visual Approach Slope Indicator System (TVASIS) visual aids.
New energy-saving LED taxiway lights are being trialled to see if they pass performance and reliability standards.  The main contractors were Thorn Airfield Lighting and Mahoney’s Electrical.
The distances between the runway holding points and centrelines for runways 16R/34L and 07/25 were re-located to give a separation distance of 107.5 metres from the runway. This was for Airbus A380 operational compliance. (SYD)

Work on the runways and their associated strips was generally done at night, though some aspects of the task – such as the pits and ducts for the 5kv Cabling upgrade ‑ were designed in a way that allowed for some of the work to be carried out during daylight hours.
The contractors generally employed two teams of six to eight staff each for the night shift.  During the day, a project manager and some engineers planned work for the evening ahead.
In line with industry practice, a time allowance of about 10% was factored into the schedule to take care of any potential adverse weather delays.  As expected, some projects were hampered by heavy rain during the course of the programme but, thankfully; no operational disruptions were caused by the work in progress.
 
New AGL Control System
British airfield lighting company atg airports won the contract to upgrade the existing set up with its own SmartControl system.  Its on-site project engineer was Mark Selvey, who made five visits ‘down under’ during the course of a year, the longest of which was a three-month stay in order to oversee the commissioning stage.
Mr Selvey told Airports International: “The upgrade replaced an existing Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. It included three new touchscreens in the ATC Visual Control Room (VCR) and controlled all the airfield lighting.  It is a Windows-based PC system using an ethernet network to control the sub-station equipment and airfield SmartSwitches, controlling and monitoring individual tungsten halogen lamps or LED technology.
“The job involved two ‘firsts’ for the company.  One was that the AGL Constant Current Regulators (CCRs) were directly controlled via the ethernet.  The other – at the customer’s request – was to interface with the Televent RVR monitoring system so that the information from the transmissometers is displayed on the ATC touchscreen in the VCR.
“The SmartControl System is capable of allowing the airport staff to re-configure it themselves.
A screen shot of atg’s SmartControl. (atg airports)

“I worked closely with the airport maintenance team supervisor Craig Bruckard and engineering technician Chris Doel who are now able to add an extra CCR or AGL circuit on to the system if it is required and carry out any on-site maintenance for SmartControl.
“The hand over process began with a check of the electrical sub-stations’ power supplies, followed by individual systems checks that allowed Air Traffic Control to continue its duties unaffected by the work in progress.  This culminated in a site acceptance test on transition day.  Local contractor Avionics carried out the installation work.”
 
Conclusion
When the entire programme was completed in June this year, airport CEO Russell Balding reflected on the work that had taken place, saying that the lighting system was an essential part of the airport’s aeronautical infrastructure and that it ensured the safety of aviation operations.
“Sydney Airport is investing in new and upgraded aviation infrastructure.  We are providing passengers with the high quality airport facilities they need, as well as securing better environmental and aviation safety outcomes.
“In 2003, it was clear that the airport’s lighting system needed attention.  It was becoming unreliable and maintenance-intensive.
The upgrade programme included the introduction of a new SmartControl lighting control system. (James Morgan / SYD)

“Sydney Airport developed a comprehensive investment programme to improve the lighting system, enhance reliability and meet regulatory requirements.
“As a result of these works, the reliability of the lighting system has been greatly increased, with outages reduced by about 95%.
“I congratulate the staff of Sydney Airport and our specialist contractors who have delivered these complex projects while maintaining normal airfield operations at Australia’s busiest airport.  The upgrade has been delivered on budget and on time without any serious incidents or interruptions to operations.”