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Stop for aircraft safety

  • Published
  • By ech. Tech. Sgt. Holly Groves and Staff Sgt. Brix Cline
  • 43rd Operations Support Squadron
The traffic lights near the ends of the runway on Reilly Street and Hurst Drive on the road around the flightline are present for one reason -- safety. Drivers, pedestrians and cyclists should know that ignoring these signals can endanger themselves, aircraft, crew and passengers. The air traffic controllers are trained to signal the traffic lights red when one of three potentially dangerous situations occurs. The most common reason the traffic lights are activated is due to aircraft performing a specific type of approach which uses ground-based navigational signals for course guidance. If reported weather conditions reach prescribed lows and an aircraft is executing this specific approach, the control tower will activate the lights on both ends of the runway. If a vehicle operator ignores the lights, the vehicle can reflect navigational signals in the wrong direction, and interfere with the accuracy of the navigational signals which can jeopardize aircraft safety at a critical stage of flight. The traffic lights are also activated when aircrafts experience an in-flight emergency. Due to the unpredictability of an emergency landing, the area near the runway needs to remain clear. Should the aircraft fail to land on the runway, the lives of vehicle operators, pedestrians and cyclists are all in jeopardy. Recovery is also difficult for the emergency aircraft if it collides with a vehicle or other object within the area. Jet blast from engines can create hazardous situations. Depending on the aircraft type and position on the runway, the traffic signals will be activated for the safety of vehicles and pedestrians behind the aircraft. Large aircraft can produce jet blast in excess of 100 miles per hour and extend up to 200 feet. Jet blast and the blowing debris can seriously jeopardize the safety of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. It is important that individuals pay attention to the traffic lights on these perimeter roads at all times. Although the reason the lights are activated may not be apparent, stop when directed.