IQ Winter 2022/23

Innovative illumination

How innovative problem-solving resulted in safer and more efficient operations at Dallas Love Field. 

Considered one of the top medium-hub airports in the country, Dallas Love Field is annually honored for its customer satisfaction while serving millions of passengers each year in their travel to and from one of the fastest-growing metro areas.

Almost a decade ago, the airport was substantially enhanced with the opening of a new terminal. The only problem was that terminal was equipped with an insufficient lighting system that impacted those working around the terminal and glare issues that created a safety hazard when lights shined directly into the eyes of pilots taxiing to the gates and for the air traffic controllers trying to manage airfield operations at night.

In response, Garver’s Aviation Team, led by Dallas Aviation Leader Mitchell McAnally, PE, PMP, and Texas Aviation Electrical Leader Matthew LeMay, PE, worked with airport operators to find a solution to these unique problems. And though replacing metal halide lights with LED fixtures provided significant benefits, this wasn’t an ordinary lighting project.

Ingenuity and creativity displayed by the Garver team resulted in a solution that ultimately made the airport safer, more efficient, and reduced energy consumption. The improvements have also been popular among those who have utilized the airfield the most since the lighting system went online in early 2022.

“These were simple solutions to everyday problems. And sometimes, simple solutions yield the biggest results."

Mitchell McAnally, PE, PMP

Dallas Aviation Leader

“Since the lights have been put into service, we’ve had positive feedback from the ground crew, TSA, ground support employees, and pilots,” McAnally said.

During the evaluation, Garver discovered that part of the fix involved how the lighting fixtures were attached to the poles above the terminal. Rather than setting them at an angle as they had been previously, the design specified for them to be aimed parallel to the ground. This design provided similar light cover but reduced glare for pilots as the lights were shining on the ground, rather than in the eyes of the pilots.

“These new fixtures did not have light above the horizontal plane at all,” LeMay said. “That still provided the correct levels of light on the ground, and the pilots wouldn’t directly see the light coming from the lamps, but from the ground in an indirect fashion.”

The pilots weren’t the only group to benefit as other elements of the project improved the day-to-day operations for airport staff in two areas.

The first to benefit were ramp workers who needed the aid of gas-powered, supplemental lighting so that they could work after dark. But that issue was reduced with the installation of one new pole.

The second involves those charged with replacing the fixtures. The previous lighting system required frequent and complicated maintenance, but that issue was greatly diminished as Garver worked with Musco Lighting on a solution.

The exterior lighting specification was written to locate drivers for the LED fixtures lower on the light poles rather than with the fixture themselves so boom trucks would not be needed to replace the drivers, typically the first point of failure of an LED lighting system. Using a boom truck would have meant doing the work late at night or shutting down an airport gate and impacting airport operations.

“These were simple solutions to everyday problems. And sometimes, simple solutions yield the biggest results,” McAnally said.

While previous lights needed replacement primarily due to their optics, the LED upgrade also led to major savings in energy, providing a 67 percent reduction in energy along with nearly $30,000 in annual savings in energy and maintenance costs.

In all, the upgraded lighting system means the airport is now safer for pilots, airport staff, and travelers, and more economical and energy efficient for operators.

“No project is one-size fits all, and it’s our job to find the best solution,” LeMay said. “The most exciting thing was helping across all stages to deliver a project that solved a safety hazard for everyone utilizing that terminal.”

Photos courtesy of Musco Lighting.

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