There are many types of airport lighting that aid pilot to land safely such as ALS, VGSI or runway lights. And some instrument approach procedures state that their weather minimums must be raised in case the ALS is out of service.

However, I think those aeronautical lights are not essential for pilots, they're just aids. In case the airport lighting such as VGSI (PAPI) is out of service, are there limitations for landing or take-off?

  • $\begingroup$ I've taken off and landed at airports without working PAPI/VASI and all they stated in the NOTAM was that it is out of order. For ILS you would still have a glideslope, VFR pilots can usually get it in without them. This isn't an answer because I don't know if it changes anything in the commercial world, but it doesn't change anything in the GA side. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    May 5, 2019 at 14:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Are you asking about the rules in a specific country? Airlines also have their own operating procedures that might apply here. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    May 5, 2019 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ Surely not, at least in the US in the VFR context. IFR may be a different story. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2019 at 18:14

1 Answer 1


There wouldn't be any limitation on taking off with the VASI/PAPI out of service, unless it involved a requirement to return to the airport where the VGSI would be required (see below). That would be a very extreme case, because it would mean that

  • the rules + the existing weather require the ability to return to the departure airport (i.e. a "takeoff alternate" is either not authorized or none is available), and
  • no other runway (including the same strip of concrete, landing in the opposite direction) is available at the same airport (tailwind component could cause this), and
  • this is a case (discussed below) where a VGSI inop prevents an approach to 'this' runway.

That's going to be a very rare combination.

So, when can an inop VGSI prevent an approach? There are cases where US TERPS rules do require an operative VGSI in order to conduct certain operations -- mostly at night. I've seen plates where a VGSI is required for circling operations to a given runway at night, and in one case where you couldn't fly any instrument approach, even an ILS, to the particular runway without the VGSI.

The latter fell in the category of TERPS rules that don't make intuitive sense... if I'm flying the ILS glideslope, by the time I'm going visual I'm so close to the runway that you'd think obstacle clearances have all been met & nothing remaining (in front of the aircraft) could possibly be a factor. It was a memorable discussion because it seemed to make so little sense. But, the restriction was published, and without the VGSI that runway wasn't usable.

The general case, however, is that the VGSI can be inop with no effect on the ability to fly an approach. In 99.9% of the cases, it won't matter. But for an obstacle in the right spot, you can get the note on the approach plate stating the requirement, and in that case, it matters.

But it's very uncommon.


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