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Old 01-25-2018, 1:52 PM
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Exclamation Pilot activated lighting

This may be in the wrong forum and I apologize if it is. I am a firefighter and my chief has tasked me with setting up communications with the helicopters landing on our soon to be built helipad. Basically he wants the helicopter to be able to click their mic to turn on the lights on our helipad. Naturally I thought of pilot activated lighting or pilot controlled lighting. I have not been able to find much info on the internet on how to build one. I do not know a lot of radios but I am very good at designing anything electrical 120v and anything low voltage. I know I can build my own pilot activated lighting system if I can figure out how the radios work. It is my understanding they can click their mic/PTT three times and the radio will detect the break in squelch and then the radio will out put a signal. Can anyone tell me what the radio is called that can do this? Thank you for any help you can offer!
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Old 01-25-2018, 5:22 PM
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I moved you post here. Hopefully you'll get some good advice in this forum and Welcome to Radio Reference!
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Old 01-25-2018, 5:31 PM
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https://flightlight.com/products/hel...io-controller/
R317 UHF Runway Light Controller
https://oksolar.com/lion/Item/394516...ghting-control


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Old 01-25-2018, 6:03 PM
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While there are many ways of doing that via inexpensive means, only FAA approved devices are allowed so that leaves few choices.
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Old 01-25-2018, 10:00 PM
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Depends on the type of airport and I don't believe a private helipad on a private building qualifies as an airport.

"Where the airport is not served by an IAP, it may have either the standard FAA approved control system or an independent type system of different specification installed by the airport sponsor. The Airport/Facility Directory contains descriptions of pilot controlled lighting systems for each airport having other than FAA approved systems, and explains the type lights, method of control, and operating frequency in clear text."

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Originally Posted by MOTEX View Post
While there are many ways of doing that via inexpensive means, only FAA approved devices are allowed so that leaves few choices.
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Old 01-26-2018, 4:57 AM
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First of all, this is absolutely not in any way a question you should be asking on this forum. Somebody in your agency needs to be in contact with the FAA.

That said, AC 150/5390-2C - Heliport Design is the appropriate FAA document you should be using.

While there is really no requirement for a private helipad to follow everything from that circular, most (if not all) insurance companies will mandate that you follow that document 100%. Since it doesn't appear to be a private helicopter landing on your front lawn, for example, the insurer of the helicopter(s) is also likely to demand the same.

There are also state laws that come into play. In California, for example, they have their own very extensive rules when it comes to helipads and helicopter aviation. Many states are the same, and have their own departments of aviation.

Since this is some sort of municipality (you refer to your chief), with tons of liability for the city/state/agency/whomever, this is not something you want to play around with. You would be REALLY stupid to build your own systems for any of this. A helicopter crashes because the lighting wasn't appropriately visible, not bright enough, failed, etc., and you guys are finished.

FAA, city/state/municipality attorney, and insurance companies should all be involved with this. This is not something that should ever be tasked to you.
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Old 01-26-2018, 11:56 AM
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As with most things, it will somewhat depend on where you are. Even though California regulates pretty much every aspect of their residents lives, and think they rule over everyone else, most places are not California and have freedom to do a lot of things, especially when related to emergency services.

First, is this an actual helipad registered with the FAA, or just a department designated area for MedEVAC operations? I believe it is the latter, and if that is the case I would not treat it much differently than any other landing zone you use or set up. The only real difference from setting up a landing zone in the middle of a highway, or any other probable location, is the fact this is a prepared area, known by everyone involved, and likely with attention to limiting obstructions and other risks.

To the helicopter operator it is likely no different than any other off airport landing at a scene. If you can, bring them in to get their input on it. If not already, they will likely add it to their database as a designated LZ, including taking pictures and documenting other information.

As for the lighting question, what is the reason for wanting pilot controlled lighting (PCL)? Would not there be at least one representative of the department there as the landing zone officer? If that's the case I would suggest just having a hardwired switch that is turned on when setting up. This would also prevent inadvertent activation from other aircraft.

If PCL is really wanted or needed it could start to get a little tricky. Since it would only be receiving, there is no regulatory requirement for anything, but a frequency would have to be selected, and be legal for the intended use. Usually PCL is activated on the airports CTAF or UNICOM frequency. It may be beneficial to use the CTAF of a nearby uncontrolled airport since the helicopter will most likely be self announcing anyway. This would have the disadvantage that other aircraft could, and would, activate the lighting.

PCL is based off a number of key ups within a set amount of time, I think usually 3 seconds or so. The light intensity is set by the number of key ups, generally 3 for low, 5 for medium, and 7 for high. The exact configuration depends on the airport and lighting that it has. Some will only use a single setting, some will use them all, and exactly what lights are activated and at what intensity will vary considerably. If the nearby airport I mentioned does not use a specific number of key ups, maybe you system could be set to activate using only that one. That way both will coexist without the other being activated needlessly.

Since there should be a landing zone officer communicating with the inbound helicopter, there is a possibility of using this as a way to activate the system. It would depend on the type of communications system being used, of course. Simplex analog would likely be easy to set up, while digital trunking would not.

As far as the lights, most anything could work just as if at any other LZ, whether it be purpose built or not. However since it is a permanent LZ, I would suggest putting some thought and money into. Take note of if the helicopter operator(s) use night vision goggles and make sure whatever you use is compatible with them. Using FAA approved lights would obviously be the way to go, but can be expensive. This is where getting input from the operators can be very valuable and potentially save costs of fixing things afterwards.
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Old 01-26-2018, 1:17 PM
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I'm not speaking as a California resident, I'm speaking as a FAA manager, who could cite the rules and regulations for this activity word-for-word blindfolded with one hand tied behind my back. But I will not on this forum, because this is not the appropriate medium for seeking advice on heliport operations. I used California as an example. The majority of states have regulations pertaining to aviation...particularly helicopters. Many cities have adopted ordinances, etc. Of course, most emergency services helicopters are going to be exempt from the local stuff, but that doesn't mean you don't have to check.

Again, this is NOT something where you want to take advice from some armchair helicopter/aviation experts on a radio forum. You don't speculate when it comes to setting something like this up, and guess as to what's acceptable and what isn't.

You want to contact the FAA to be sure everything is legit, you want to contact your agency's/city's/state's/etc. attorney, and you want to contact whomever is providing insurance for your agency, and whomever is providing insurance for the helicopter operators that will utilize your heliport, assuming it is a small number of operators. Sure, some insurance companies for medevac operators might not care. Most will. In fact, almost 100% will. My experience with this tells me that. And whomever insures your agency will likely care as well, as you are introducing hazardous operations to your location. They might insist on additional emergency equipment at the location (fire abatement equipment designed for aviation fuel, for example), might insist on some sort of weather abatement (i.e. snow and ice removal), might regulate the flight paths to avoid residential/congested areas, etc. The insurance companies will normally have a much bigger say on these operations than anything else. Many insurance companies will only allow for off-airport landings/takeoffs for medevac aircraft at the scene of an emergency, and even those situations can be highly regulated.
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