When it comes to helicopter operations, safety is paramount. One critical aspect of ensuring safe landings is the use of perimeter approach lights. These lights provide visual cues to guide pilots as they approach a helipad, especially during low visibility conditions. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of perimeter approach lights, exploring their purpose, types, and how they contribute to secure helicopter landings.

What Are Perimeter Approach Lights?

Perimeter approach lights, also known as heli lights or helicopter landing pad lights, are a system of illumination installed around the edges of a helipad. These lights serve as visual aids, helping pilots identify the location and boundaries of the landing area. They provide essential guidance during approach and landing maneuvers, particularly in low light or adverse weather conditions.

The Purpose of Perimeter Approach Lights

The primary objective of perimeter approach lights is to enhance safety during helicopter operations. Here’s how they achieve this goal:

  1. Increased Visibility: Helipad lights make the helipad more visible from a distance, allowing pilots to easily locate the landing site.
  1. Orientation Assistance*: The lights help pilots maintain proper orientation and alignment with the helipad during approach and landing.
  1. Boundary Delineation: By outlining the perimeter of the helipad, these lights clearly define the safe landing area, reducing the risk of overshooting or undershooting the pad.
  1. Obstacle Avoidance: Helipad lights can alert pilots to potential obstacles or hazards in the vicinity of the helipad, such as trees, buildings, or power lines.

Types of Perimeter Approach Lights

There are several types of perimeter approach lights used in helipad lighting systems:

  1. Omnidirectional Lights: These lights emit a steady white or yellow light visible from all directions. They are typically placed at the corners and midpoints of the helipad perimeter.
  1. Flashing Lights: Some perimeter lights feature a flashing pattern to increase conspicuity and draw attention to the helipad. These lights are usually white or yellow and have a specific flash rate.
  1. Elevated Lights: Perimeter approach heli lights can be mounted on elevated fixtures or poles to improve visibility from a distance. This is particularly useful in areas with tall obstacles or uneven terrain.
  1. Flush-Mounted Lights: For helipads with limited space or where elevated lights are not practical, flush-mounted lights can be installed directly into the surface of the helipad.

Placement and Configuration

The placement and configuration of Helipad lights are critical factors in their effectiveness. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provide guidelines for the installation of helipad lighting systems. Some key considerations include:

-Spacing: Perimeter lights should be evenly spaced around the helipad, typically at intervals of 10 to 30 feet, depending on the size of the landing area.

-Color: White or yellow lights are commonly used for perimeter approach lights, as they provide good visibility and contrast against various backgrounds.

-Intensity: The brightness of the lights should be adjustable to accommodate different environmental conditions and pilot preferences.

– Synchronization: In multi-light systems, the flashing lights should be synchronized to create a consistent and easily recognizable pattern.

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TLOF Lights: Touchdown and Liftoff Area Lighting

In addition to perimeter approach lights, helipads also feature touchdown and liftoff (TLOF) lights. These lights illuminate the actual landing surface, providing visual cues for the pilot during the final stages of approach and landing. TLOF lights are typically flush-mounted and arranged in a square or circular pattern at the center of the helipad. read more about Guiding Lights: Key Lighting Standards for Secure Helicopter Touchdowns here.


FATO Lights: Final Approach and Takeoff Area Lighting

Another essential component of helipad lighting systems is the Final Approach and Takeoff (FATO) lights. These lights are positioned around the perimeter of the FATO area, which is a defined zone surrounding the TLOF. The purpose of FATO lights is to provide visual guidance to pilots during the final phase of approach and initial stage of takeoff.

Here are some key points about FATO lights:

  1. Configuration: FATO lights are typically arranged in a rectangular or square pattern, outlining the boundaries of the FATO area.
  1. Color: The color of FATO lights is usually white, although some heliports may use green lights to distinguish the FATO perimeter from the TLOF area.
  1. **Intensity: FATO lights should be of sufficient intensity to be visible from a distance and in various weather conditions. The brightness can be adjustable to suit different operational requirements.
  1. Elevated or Flush-Mounted: Depending on the helipad design and surrounding terrain, FATO lights can be installed as elevated fixtures or flush-mounted into the surface.
  1. Relationship with Perimeter Approach Lights: FATO lights work in conjunction with perimeter approach lights to provide a comprehensive visual guidance system for pilots. While perimeter approach lights guide pilots to the general vicinity of the helipad, FATO lights delineate the specific area for final approach and takeoff maneuvers.

The placement and characteristics of FATO lights are specified in aviation regulations and guidelines, ensuring standardization and safety across different heliports. Proper maintenance and regular inspections are crucial to ensure the reliability and optimal performance of FATO lights. read more about Benefits of Heliport Lights here.

Helipad Lighting Maintenance

To ensure the reliability and effectiveness of perimeter approach lights, TLOF lights, FATO lights, and other helipad lighting systems, regular maintenance is essential. This includes:

– Inspecting lights for damage, corrosion, or malfunctions

– Cleaning lenses and fixtures to maintain optimal light output

– Replacing bulbs or LED modules as needed

– Testing the system regularly to verify proper operation

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are perimeter approach lights required for all helipads?

   While not mandatory for all helipads, perimeter approach lights are strongly recommended for enhanced safety, especially in areas with low visibility or high traffic. read more about Heliport Lighting Market Will Grow At 4.31% CAGR During 2021-2025 here.

  1. How bright should perimeter approach lights be?

   The intensity of perimeter approach lights should be sufficient to provide clear visibility from a distance without causing glare or discomfort for pilots. The specific brightness levels are specified in aviation regulations.

  1. Can Helipad lights be solar-powered?

   Yes, solar-powered perimeter approach lights are available. These lights are equipped with solar panels and batteries, making them suitable for remote or off-grid locations.

  1. How often should helipad lighting systems be inspected?

   Helipad lighting systems should be inspected at least once a month, or more frequently if recommended by the manufacturer or local aviation authorities.


Perimeter approach lights play a vital role in ensuring safe and efficient helicopter operations. By providing clear visual guidance to pilots during approach and landing, these lights contribute to reduced accidents and enhanced operational capabilities. Understanding the types, placement, and maintenance of perimeter approach heli lights is crucial for helipad managers, pilots, and aviation professionals. With proper implementation and upkeep, perimeter approach lights, along with TLOF lights and other helipad lighting components, create a secure environment for helicopter landings, ultimately prioritizing the safety of crew, passengers, and ground personnel.





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