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Introduction to Airfield Lighting Circuits #1

How do airfield lighting circuits differ from conventional electrical circuits?


In three main ways: They use series circuits. All components must be watertight. There is a standard connector system used in most of the world.

What is a series circuit?


A series circuit starts at a power supply, called a Constant Current Regulator or CCR, and through a single cable passes through a series of isolating transformers and returns to the CCR. Each transformer powers a light, sign, or other device.

What does a typical series circuit or "loop" look like?


This schematic shows a loop with only 3 devices. Real loops will have up to 100 or more devices, and may be as much as 6000 meters (20,000 feet) in length.

Why are series circuits used in airfield lighting, rather than the more common parallel/voltage circuits?
To cause as much confusion as possible (just kidding). Actually series circuits keep light patterns at balanced brilliancy. By the nature of airports, there are very long distances involved, and it would require very expensive cabling to minimize voltage drops in conventional voltage circuits. Voltage drops in turn would mean varying light brightness, and it is important to avoid this so that a pilot's depth vision is effective. It is far easier to do this with a series circuit since all lamps receive the same current.

What Does the CCR Do?


A CCR has several current output settings, and will keep the current constant wherever it is set. For example, a typical 5 step CCR will have a maximum output current of 6.6 amperes, as well as steps at 5.2 amperes, 4.1 amperes, 3.4 amperes and 2.8 amperes. The higher the current, the brighter the lights. The controllers pick a setting so that the light output suits flying conditions.

What are the isolating transformers for? They ensure circuit continuity in the event of a
bulb failure, and as well keep the higher voltage of the primary circuit (generally insulated to 5000 Volts) underground for safety purposes. They also are sometimes used to change the primary current to a different value to match that required by the fixture.

What is meant by watertight?


Since all airfield circuits are underground, there is the possibility that they will be submerged in water at least part of the time. Hence all Amerace products are designed and built to operate submerged in water for their lifetime.

What kind of Connectors are used?


The US Federal Aviation Administration publishes an Advisory Circular AC 150/5345-26C which specifies the dimensions and construction of both primary and secondary connectors for airfield lighting. These requirements have become a de facto world standard. Amerace provides a full series of FAA connectors. These are available in both kit and molded connector versions.

How are the primary connection made? Usually transformers will be provided with
primary connectors molded on the leads. In the field connector kits will be used to assemble

'extension cords' to plug into the transformer connector. 1. Molded primary connectors 2. Kit Primary connectors 3. Field cable

What is a Kit?
A kit (connector kit) is a collection of parts, usually provided in a plastic bag, used to assemble a connector.

The Importance of Sizing


The rubber housings of kits are designed to form a completely watertight seal to the wire or cable using the interference fit principle, i.e. by gripping it like a (long and strong) rubber band. It is, therefore, essential to know the outside diameter of the wire or cable which is to be used, and to pick the appropriate size of kit from the ordering code.

Courtesy: http://www.amerace.com/NewFiles/intro1.html
http://www.amerace.com/NewFiles/designer.html