Runway lights play a vital role in landing and take-off made after it gets dark or when visibility of the runway is reduced for some meteorological reasons. Moreover, it is an indispensable condition for many landing and take-off operations. For pilots to land safely, it is extremely important that the approach and runway edge lights are operational and on at the appropriate intensity.
So, can pilots turn the runway lights on and off? The answer to this question is “yes”.
Pilots have the opportunity to turn the runway lights on and off from the cockpit of the aircraft when necessary. Thanks to these systems, called “Pilot-controlled Lighting” (PCL), “Pilot-activated Lighting” (PAL) or “Aircraft Radio Control of Aerodrome Lighting” (ARCAL), some lights such as approach lights, runway edge lights, taxiway lights units can be controlled via the radio system. In some systems, the aerodrome beacon can also be controlled with these systems.
This type of systems is mostly preferred at airports where there are no control towers or the airports with low air traffic.
Pilots can activate/deactivate the lights they want by pressing the radio control a certain number of times within a certain period of time.
In addition, it is possible to adjust the intensity of the lights via the radio system. It’s easy to guess why such a practice exists, to save energy and prevent light pollution. Keeping the lights on during the night, especially in less-used airports, causes both unnecessary electricity consumption and light disturbance in terms of the environment. Instead, it is a much better choice to turn on the lights only when necessary.