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In the age of computers (GPS) do newly built airports still have the rotating beacon?

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There is not a regulatory requirement for all U.S. airports to have a Rotating Beacon (unless there is federal funding requested or if certain types of operations being conducted there require specific regulatory requirements to be satisfied, e.g., Air Carrier operations, etc.)

There are some (U.S.) public airports and most (likely all) private airports that do not have rotating beacons.

Healdsburg Muni and Cloverdale Muni airports located in Northern CA are among many public airports in the U.S. that do not have rotating beacons.

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  • $\begingroup$ But doesn't the funding program condition funding to the respect of current standards. Which in turn implies that current standards requires the rotating beacon? Just a question, I'm trying to understand. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Nov 24 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ @mins I don't think so. If every public airport in the U.S. (over 5000 of them ) were required to meet all of the lighting requirements, taxiway and runway marking requirements, etc. specified in the Airport Advisory_Circular guidance cost would likely be prohibitive. $\endgroup$
    – 757toga
    Nov 24 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ Do those examples all lack runway lights too? The charts do distinguish between lighted and unlighted airports, and I assumed the Q was about only the former. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Nov 25 at 3:28
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenS both of airports in my response above (Healdburg and Cloverdale), for example, have runway lights but no rotating beacon. $\endgroup$
    – 757toga
    Nov 25 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ @757toga Interesting; I was taught airports without a star on top were completely unlighted, but now I see the *L below. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Nov 25 at 3:41
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If an airport has at least one lighted runway, it will usually have a rotating beacon, regardless of when it was built. Equipment is expensive to maintain over time, so if they weren’t still useful, they’d all have been removed.

Even if pilots can easily navigate to an airport via GPS, we still must acquire it visually when coming from a direction that is not sufficiently aligned with a runway to recognize the runway or approach lights. This is quite common if we’re VFR entering the traffic pattern or if we’re IFR on a circling, visual or contact approach.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you cite a regulatory source that specifically requires a beacon for all airports? There are some public airports and most (likely all) private airports that do not have beacons. Thanks $\endgroup$
    – 757toga
    Nov 24 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ @757toga: There are a large number of airports that don't have beacons, or indeed, any sort of lighting at all. Basically any back-country dirt strip, or low-use GA airports. For the rest, some of us regard GPS as a useful backup, while doing primary navigation by looking out the window :-) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Nov 24 at 3:16
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your replies so far. $\endgroup$
    – dean1957
    Nov 24 at 3:27
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall Every airport I’ve seen with runway lights has a rotating beacon, including non-towered airports. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Nov 24 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall there are many rotating beacons that are located at U.S. airports without control towers and many with control towers that continue to operate after the tower is closed. $\endgroup$
    – 757toga
    Nov 24 at 14:16

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