Letter: Looking for affordable runway lighting

Chuck LairdĀ called earlier this week to ask about runway lighting for the Adelanto Airport. I asked Chuck to send me a letter that outlined the project in detail so I could put it out to the Living With Your Plane community. If you have any input you’d care to share, please do so in the comments section below…

Thanks for the response to my telephone inquiries about finding an affordable runway lighting system for our small rural airpark. It is identified as theĀ Adelanto Airport (52CL) and is a private, multiple ownership, airport located about seven (7) miles southwest of Victorville Airport (VCV). It is a fully State Permitted daytime use airport and Zoned as a Residential Airpark within the City of Adelanto. To increase its feasibility and usefulness to pilots, we are interested in providing for safe night flying.

It has two dirt runways. Runway 27 is about 5100 feet long and 100 feet wide. Runway 17 is about 3800 feet long and 170 feet wide. Airport elevation is 3070′ msl.

Runway 17 is the runway we’d like to light as it meets the FAR Part 77 Airspace requirements. Runway 17, as well as its reverse Runway 35, has high power transmission lines on each end. These high tension wires pose no particular problem during daylight VFR flying as they are about 150 feet AGL whereas our traffic pattern in their vicinity is at least 400 feet AGL. They are fitted with “balls” along their high wires for their identification during daylight flying but are not lighted for easy location at night.

Hence, flying at night will require the fitting of some sort of a lighted Visual Approach Indicator such as a VASI, PAPI, etc. to assure safety.

Our preliminary cost estimate including L-860 runway lights, L-801 rotating beacon and L-881 PAPI is nearly $32,000 not including Engineer, Surveyor, Electrical, Concrete and other construction excavation, concrete, trenching, etc. It’s believed the total costs could easily reach $40,000 even with a lot of anticipated “donated labor”.

We hope there are other small airport experiences of developing airport/runway lighting and approach path indicators that may guide us in a more affordable plan. Maybe only partial runway lighting with a mix of solar powered battery lights and “reflectors” have been tried/used, etc.

Thank you for all of your help.

So… if you have any feedback or experience, please share below in the comments for all to see. Thank you.

16 replies on “Letter: Looking for affordable runway lighting”

Good day,

I am also looking for an affordable lightning system for my project.

What I found about the reflectors is that there are good at first then they deteriorate with time (sun burning) and dust.

Good luck and keep us informed,


We have an affordable lighting sys. At E98. The standards are 1″ PVC , the body made from 4″ PVC caps cut to allow the globes to stick thru. The inside standard sockets & 11W bulbs.
Maintenance is easy, device is frangible, globes usually purchased from CBI supply at a discount.
Each light is under $25.00, and spaced at 200′ .
The old controller has been here a while, you can go with PCL like we have, or just dusk-dawn.
Get in touch if you need more information or pictures. You can find my phone number published for E98.

I know someone who has some rwy lights he bought a while ago but opted not to install on hist grass runway. I sent him the link for here.

Have you looked at retro-reflictive runway markers ? They are panels or cylinders covered with the stuff that covers highway signs. It gets lit up with the aircrafts landing light. You can even build a 3-panel VASI with retro-reflective panels.
There is a advisory circular on specs if you want to get them funded through AIP.


If FAA funding is not an issue, there is no need to go with a manufactured product. You can produce them from sheet aluminum and rolls of the microprism coating. Iirc, the FAA spec says 96 square inches for the reflective surface.

Runway Lighting
Several years ago I purchased over eighty Commercial Runway Lights.
I have about forty lights left and for sale. They work great and I installed them myself. I used CFL and they put out 60 watts of light using 11 watts of current each.
If interested call 843 602 8220 Ron Heidebrink

You may want to check into local commercial airports. One of the jetports in our area was replacing their runway lights with a newer model and was willing to give us their old ones.


Very first consideration is: Do you need Federal money and Federal control. In my case the answer is no.

I went the Bright Portal Route but these lights proved to be somewhat less than reliable even though they are designed to be glued to the pavement and run over. I have not asked for a refund, about a third of the lights failed in the first two years and they are not repairable.

My back yard strip (NH61) is one way with 1720 ft. 55 ft wide tapering to 34′ wide.

My solution for the white runway lights, Home Depot (or Lowe’s) cast aluminum, solar powered deck lights at two for 30 bucks. Mount them on inverted Home Depot Homer buckets. Prepare the buckets by removing the bail, drilling four quarter inch holes in the bottom (now top)and drill out each of the little square “cups” around the edge of the bucket. Now find some scrap 1/4″ steel strapping to cut into small weights for those cups to make the buckets heavier. Believe me when I say the buckets will blow away if unweighted.

Unfortunately, the deck lights come only in white, while Bright portal lights come in every aviation color. However, the Deck lights are half the cost of the BP lights, and should last forever as they have replaceable batteries and seem to be much more reliable.

As for VASI, I’m working on that. REELS, Walmart garden illumination lights that are their most expensive LED Solar lights at 2 for 50 bucks. You will have to work out the circuitry to make them flash at 2 cps.

As for MALSARs (rabbit), I have built a system with these lights that I am now testing with the entire array on the house side of the runway facing my bedroom. They have been running without interruption for a year now and are enough to light up the bedroom ceiling quite well. That project is a bit more complicated, but when I get my wetlands permit for a conservation walkway to nowhere, I’ll be happy to share the how to.

Good Luck!


It seems you have a need for a more than just a makeshift installation. We manufacture ICAO Annex 14 approved airport lighting products in South Africa. With the exchange rate right now it might prove very cost effective to look at some of our products. Please let me know if you have an interest. I am going to be in the US in the next month or so with sample items for another potential installation.
Our plan for the next year is to open an office in the US to service local demand for reliable yet not expensive airport installations.

Hi, Chuck. As you can guess by the responses to your inquiry airport lighting can run the gamete in expense and complexity. I live on Naper Aero (LL10) west of Chicago. We are investigating replacement options for our existing system which is PCL runway lighting on our main runway and a two-light VASI. An engineered system looks like it will cost us in excess of $100K. Most likely, we will find a lower cost option. If you are a private strip, there is probably no need to get the “real deal” engineered system. Our current set up was a “home made” system of buried cable and standard runway light fixtures. It has served us well for the last 35 years so we will most likely undertake a like-minded replacement with some upgrades and improvements. For instance, we may use LED bulbs for the long service life and low power usage. We may also convert the old VASI boxes to LED illumination for the same reasons as well as being able to dispense with old transformer components that will one day, be unavailable. New VASI or PAPIs are costly. Those alone, could double your total lighting cost. Depending on what your users are looking for, a simple VASI panel system might be a good alternative (which could be illuminated for night use) at a low cost. Being low cost, a panel system could be replaced with less financial consequence should you all decide you really need a manufactured set up. If your residents are up for it, some or all of the work could be accomplished by volunteers or at a discount should some of your residents have ready access to resources you may need. I’m thinking of someone who owns/operates a business in construction who may have access to something like a trencher. I know this was all very general, but this is one of those things that has lots of moving parts and there are many ways to skin that cat (sorry cat lovers). If you’d like to talk let me know. Perhaps we could keep each other posted on our respective project’s progress. Lew


Hi all,

Please check us out http://www.avlite.com or call us at 603 737 1310. We have a number of affordable solutions for airstrip solar lighting and very recently had a successful installation on a remote island in Maine. The 3000′ grass strip installation was finished in less than 3 hours.

I have two sets of 1 Master & 1 Slave 4 total new REIL: L-849A/C/E Xenon Runway End Identification Light Made by Siemens . Like I said these are new so I will take reasonable offer for all four, my contact phone number is 360-436-0397. These are located in Washington State and I can deliver within a 800 mile area of Seattle for an additional cost based on mileage. Contact Patrick Morgan at the above number.

I have a big lot of Cooper Crouse-Hinds Airport Runway Lights new in the Box along with other runway accessories. Please contact me for details and pricing.

I have a complete VASI system for sale. I am located in Missouri. They system was removed from an airport in missouri when they upgraded.

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