What is the color and light sequence of a land-based airport beacon?

The beacon for a land-based civil airport is an alternating white and green light.

There are several different light combinations for airports and helipads.  These are:

White-Green: Lighted land airport
White-White-Green: Military land airport
White-Yellow: Lighted water airport or seabase
Green-Yellow-White: Lighted heliport

Reference(s):

AIM 2018 2-1-10
FAA-H-8083-25B Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge pg. 14-16

Other Airport and Helicopter Topics

When is the beacon operated at airports?

The beacon is operated from sunset to sunrise and when less than VFR conditions during the day.

Although the beacon is often on during IFR conditions, the fact that a beacon may be off during the day, does not constitute VFR conditions.  A pilot must confirm the conditions.

Reference(s):

FAA-H-8083-25B Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge pg. 14-16

Other Airport and Heliport Topics

What is the traffic pattern for a helicopter at an untowered airport?

The helicopter is to avoid the flow of fixed-wing traffic.

In general, general aviation airplanes fly a left-hand pattern at 1,000foot AGL. A helicopter has a lot of options when flying a pattern at an uncontrolled airport.  For students, a common option will be a 500-foot AGL pattern with right traffic.  However, any pattern that avoids the 1000 AGL pattern of fixed-wing aircraft is appropriate.  Outside of student environment, helicopters will perform approaches directly to their intended landing area, avoiding the fixed wing traffic.  Due to obstructions, noise abatement, or other reasons, some airports have right-hand traffic requirements, so check with the Chart Supplement (f/k/a Airport Directory) for that specific airport.

Reference(s):

14 CFR 91.126 Operating on or in the vicinity of an airport in Class G airspace
FAA AC 90-66B Non-Towered Airport Flight Operations

Other Airport and Helicopter Topics

How should a pilot report their position when approaching a non-towered airport?

On the common radio frequency, state the airport, helicopter tail number, distance, direction and altitude.

The following is an example radio call, “Danville traffic, helicopter 725A, five miles to the south, at 1800 feet, inbound for landing, Danville.”

Stating the airport, such as “Danville traffic” alerts pilots in the area that a relevant radio call is about to be transmitted.  Stating, “helicopter” and tail number allows the pilots to know it is a helicopter so that they could anticipate the type of flight activity.  Stating “five miles to the south” provide the other pilot a general location to start looking for you.  Stating the altitude further helps other pilots identify the helicopter’s location.  Do not state altitude before general direction and distance as other pilots need to be looking in the general direction first and it is hard to remember items while flying.  Stating “inbound for landing” informs others to know the intention on the flight.  At this point, the specific runway or direction does not need to be stated.  Wait to hear if others are already in the pattern and/or what runways they are landing.  Ending with “Danville” helps other pilots confirm if the call was for their airport or another nearby airport that maybe sharing a common frequency.

Reference(s):

AIM 2018 4-2-1

Other Airport and Helicopter Topics

How are instructions received from the tower if the helicopter’s radio fail?

If radio fails, the transponder should be set to 7600 and light signals should be received from the tower.

If the radio fails prior to taking off, it is unlikely that a pilot will attempt to take off from a controlled airport without contacting ATC via telephone or in person.  That is, airport operations would know the pilot’s intentions and could give them light signals to proceed.  An example would be to return to the pilot’s home airport for repairs.  In flight, a pilot may need to land at a controlled airport, but the pilot could consider diverting to an uncontrolled airport.  Although light signals are available, the lack of communication does increase the level of risk.

Diagram showing the different ATC aircraft light signals

Reference(s):

14 CFR 91.209 Aircraft lights

Other Airport and Helicopter Topics