Lighting Requirements For Towers

Radio towers above 200 feet tall commonly require light markers.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in consultation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), set the requirements for lighting on towers in the United States. In addition to lighting requirements, the FCC operates a construction permit process for which a tower’s height and location are assessed for aviation hazards. Does this Spark an idea?

Height

A tower or other structure taller than 200 feet above ground level must have marker lights. In addition, a tower fewer than 200 feet tall may require lighted markers if the FAA deems it a particular hazard due to its location. The FAA rules presume that any tower taller than 2,000 feet above ground level poses a threat to air travel and prohibit such structures unless they specifically are deemed not a hazard to air travel.

Red Obstruction Lights

Red obstruction lights let pilots know that a tower exists at that location. FAA regulations require pilots to stay at least 500 feet from a structure. Towers are required to have two non-flashing lights mounted opposite each other at each tower level. Towers from 500 to 700 feet have one solid red light mounting at their midpoint. Towers from 700 to 1,051 feet have two equally spaced levels. Towers from 1,051 to 1,400 feet have three equally placed levels, while towers from 1,401 and 1,751 feet have four levels. The tallest towers, from 1,751 to 2,200 feet, have five levels of solid red lights. Each tower is topped with a flashing red light.

White Flashing Lights

Available as either medium intensity or high intensity, white flashing lights are an alternative to red obstruction lights. The determination of lighting system is made by the FAA based on the aviation risk. FAA regulations limit the use of medium-intensity lights to towers fewer than 500 feet above ground. Towers taller than 350 feet have a set of white strobe lights at 200 feet above the ground or at their midpoint, whichever is higher. Towers from 200 to 350 feet have a single white strobe on their top. Towers from 500 to 700 feet require the same lighting configuration as the red obstruction lights but display high-intensity white strobes.

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Maintenance and Reports

FAA regulations require daily visual confirmation of a lighting system not monitored by automated systems. Regulations require readings of an automated monitoring system to be taken daily. FAA regulations also require ice covers and multiple bulbs in each light fixture. They help to maintain consistent operation of the tower lighting system during all weather conditions and when some bulbs fail. Tower light outages must be reported to the FAA.