Enhancing Runway Safety with Pilot-Controlled Lighting:

Enhancing runway safety is a vital aspect of aviation, and airfields use various measures to achieve this. One of these measures is Pilot Controlled Lighting (PCL), a type of airfield lighting system that enables pilots to turn on and off runway and taxiway lighting as they approach and depart from the airfield. In this article, we will discuss how PCL enhances runway safety and why it’s a valuable addition to airfields.

Pilot Controlled Lighting (PCL) is a system that gives pilots the ability to activate and deactivate runway and taxiway lights at their discretion. The system involves the installation of remote-control transmitters that allow pilots to control the runway lights through their aircraft radio systems.

  • Enhanced Runway Safety

Pilot Controlled Lighting significantly enhances runway safety by providing an extra layer of control to the pilots. In situations where controllers can’t switch on the runway lights, pilots can activate them themselves. Should there be a failure or an issue with the airfield lighting system, pilots can use PCL to ensure they have sufficient runway illumination.

The PCL system also ensures that pilots have better situational awareness, which is critical for safe takeoff and landing.

  • Energy Efficiency

Airfield lighting is astonishingly expensive due to the extensive amount of dark paths it covers. The use of PCL helps reduce energy consumption, save money, and helps airfields conserve their resources, including electricity. Lighting systems, although designed to consume minimal electrical energy, still represent a significant portion of an airfield’s operational costs.

Pilot Controlled Lighting

PCL has been instrumental in reducing these costs, as pilots can turn on and off the lights when only necessary, and can reduce lighting usage by up to 60%.

  • Flexibility

PCL provides significant flexibility for pilots and airfields. Pilots can control the runway lighting systems themselves, choosing the exact lights they need and when they need them. Airfield lighting control is shifted from ground systems to cockpit control, providing pilots with better decision-making capabilities during approach and departure angles.

PCL makes it possible to use lighting configurations that are far more efficient for a given operation, for example, lower-intensity taxiway lighting.

  • Improved Environmental Sustainability

PCL has environmental sustainability benefits apart from energy savings. Decreasing light output means a decrease in light pollution in the surrounding area. PCL can also help with fatigue reduction in migratory bird populations.


Runway safety is of utmost importance in aviation, and Pilot Controlled Lighting is an essential tool that enhances runway safety. By providing an extra layer of intervention, enhancing situational awareness, and reducing energy consumption, the PCL system has become an indispensable part of the modern airfield. PCL provides flexibility for pilots, reduces operational costs for airfields, and improves environmental sustainability.