ATG Airports has begun work on an AGL bypass system at Heathrow that, when complete, will improve the airport’s lighting contingency process.

In the event of airfield ground lighting (AGL) system failure, with the current lighting control system at Heathrow Airport, the contingency process relies on manual attendance by the engineering team to each of the 14 substations to hand switch equipment. From mobilisation, it takes around two hours to configure the airfield into an operational state. This may lead to the airfield having to reduce movements to a minimum or potentially even close for a time.

In 2021 Heathrow Airport contracted Warrington-based ATG Airports to provide a design for an AGL bypass system that could deliver a faster, more efficient contingency process. This design has been approved by the airport and the implementation stage is currently under way. This is set to run for around two years from start to completion.

Given the complexity of the AGL control system, the introduction of an AGL bypass system facility to be used as an emergency backup, will, in theory, reduce the contingency time to less than a minute.

A separate Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) will be provided at each substation to take control of the serial links and combined with a new UPS, the AGL control system will have a backup capable of controlling set patterns of runway and taxiway lighting from air traffic control.

ATG Airports operations director Chris McGuinness said: “The challenge of designing this stand-alone AGL bypass system has drawn upon all of our knowledge and experience within the ATG engineering team. We are proud of this achievement and are looking forward to continuing working closely in collaboration with the Heathrow team to implement this system and ensuring that the AGL control and monitoring system is ready to meet all future requirements.”

Image: London Heathrow Airport