Greater Binghamton Gives LED Runway Signs the Nod

Jim Faber
Published in: 

The difference was clear for Tom Pudish.

The airport manager at the Greater Binghamton Airport near the New York-Pennsylvania border had a chance to look at LED runway lights and signs next to traditional incandescent fixtures before outfitting the airport's 7,000-foot parallel taxiway already under construction.

The LED lights were the clear choice, says Pudish, citing their overall cost savings for Binghamton's particular project and clear and bright appearance compared to incandescent options.

Greater Binghampton Airport

The LED lights and signs are a small part of a larger project at the Binghamton airport. In summer 2008, the airport began a roughly $8 million multi-phase project to combine its two 75-foot-wide taxiways into one full parallel taxiway. According to senior engineer Jason Flemming of McFarland-Johnson, a horizontal shift of the taxiways was required to increase the separation between the runway and taxiway centerline to 300 feet. Reconstruction will consist of a bituminous asphalt binder and top course on a crushed aggregate base.

Facts & Figures

Project: LED Light & Sign Installation

Location: Greater Binghamton (NY) Airport

Owner: Broome County Department of Aviation

Engineer: McFarland-Johnson Inc.

Manufacturer: Airfield Guidance Manufacturers Inc.

Installer: B&H Taxilane

Sales Company: Airport Lighting Company

Project Scope: Roughly 280 lights, 52 signs

Taxiway Construction: $8 million

LED Signs & Lights: $1.4 million

Project Duration: About 2 years

The Need: Lights and signs compatible with power restrictions of the airport's regulators

New York's brutal winter weather recently suspended the project with taxiway construction about 50% complete; the balance of the work is expected to be finished in 2009. The original schedule called for completion in fall 2008, but a subcontractor installing the crushed aggregate base had difficulty meeting placement and compaction requirements, Flemming explains.

Early Adopters

The Federal Aviation Administration only recently approved LED signs for use on taxiways. Binghamton is consequently the first installation of Airfield Guidance Manufacturers' new line of signs, reports company owner Andy Ellerton. In addition to the new LED signs, the project includes nearly 250 lights converted to LED and 41 new lights for part of the taxiway that is yet to be completed.

Although the $1.4 million LED signs and lights represented a higher up-front cost compared to traditional incandescent lights, Flemming says they still provided both short-term and long-term cost savings at Binghamton.

Here's how: About two years ago, the airport performed a runway rehabilitation project, which included updated lights and signs as well as the replacement of the runway regulator. After that project, but prior to the current one, FAA signage standards changed. Current standards require runway hold short signs and runway exit signs to be placed on the runway circuit instead of the taxiway circuit. At Binghamton, 25 signs had to be moved from the taxiway circuit to runway circuit. Using conventional signs, however, would have overloaded the power capacity of the runway regulator, which was only about two years old. Because LED signs create a smaller electrical load, the runway regulator would not have to be replaced if they were used. In addition, the extra cost of LED signs was less than the cost of a new regulator - at least $40,000, according to Pudish's estimate.

Long-Term Look

Operating and maintenance costs were also considered. According to Ellerton, LED bulbs can last as many as 50,000 hours, compared to around 1,000 hours for traditional bulbs; so they lower ongoing replacement costs. In addition, the new 10-watt LEDs will provide long-term energy savings vs. their 30-watt predecessors. Converting 237 lights at Binghamton represents a savings of 4,740 watts per hour - about 3 1/2 times the amount of energy used per hour in a typical home.

Even though they take less power, however, the LED lights are brighter than their conventional counterparts. They also heat up enough to melt off snow, which is no small detail in New York. "Binghamton has some very challenging weather," Pudish says. " The lights have held up nicely."

Ellerton considers Binghamton a good proving ground for the newly approved technology because of its snow and other challenging weather conditions.

LEDs do, however, present a few disadvantages. In addition to their higher initial cost (vs. incandescents) they also cost more to replace if they are broken - a distinct possibility at airports like Binghamton that frequently have to plow snow. A few pilots have also expressed concern that the brighter LED lights could cause a distraction, Flemming reports.

On balance, though, officials at Greater Binghamton are very pleased with the performance of the LED lights and signs. Pudish, in fact, intends to use them in subsequent taxiway projects, perhaps in the next few years.


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