Calvert Cross Bar Approach Lighting System
The photo above shows the Calvert High Intensity Approach Lights on Essendon's Runway 26 shortly after they were commissioned. Being a time exposure, the lights of aircraft landing are shown as long streaks terminating at the runway threshold. This photo also gives a good impression of the positioning of the lights among the houses of the suburb of Strathmore. The photo was taken from Gaffney Street looking across the Moonee Ponds Creek valley.
The following information about the Calvert cross bar lighting system is based on an article High Intensity Approach Lighting by S.W. Hart (DCA Sectional Airways Engineer) which appeared in the Civil Aviation Jounal, the DCA's house publication, Vol 1, No 3, March 1951.
In 1946 Mr E.S. Calvert of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, UK, was requested by a UK Ministry of Civil Aviation Airfield Lighting Committee to investigate the problem of approach lighting and establish the general principles involved. Calvert tackled the problem by attempting to ascertain the visual and mental processes by which a pilot lands an aircraft. He then developed a theoretical model by which different lighting systems could be compared, and tested his theoretical results using simulation.
Calvert's line of reasoning led him to the conclusion that to provide smooth transition from instrument to visual flying without optical illusions, and to provide sensitive and natural indications which could easily be interpreted by the average pilot, the approach lighting pattern should consist of a centre line of light with horizontal bars of light running transversely across it at even intervals. This pattern consists of two basic elements - a line of lights leading to the runway threshold, and horizontal lights to define the attitude of the aircraft. Calvert placed much stress on roll guidance compared with the Americans who, up to that time, had completely neglected it. He was the first to realise that it was easy to confuse lateral displacement with angle of bank.
The Calvert system does not indicate a defined glide path, but the widths of the horizon bars are such that, if a pilot maintains a glide that will take him to the correct touch down point, each bar will appear to be the same width as the previous one as it disappears under the nose of the aircraft. Distance is indicated by using single lights in the centre line to indicate 1000 ft or less from the threshold, double lights for 1000-2000 ft and triple lights for 2000-3000 ft.
The basic form of the Calvert cross bar lighting system still forms the basis for high-intensity approach lighting systems today.
The illustration below is from the March 1951 issue of the Civil Aviation Journal and shows what pilots could expect to see from the newly-installed Calvert system at Melbourne/Essendon. The lighting array has been highlighted for clarity.
< The image at left shows the Calvert High Intensity Approach Light (HIAL) array on Melbourne/Tullamarine's Runway 16. The wing bars are very prominent, as is the red and white dense array marking the imminent approach to the runway threshold.
Note also the PAPI system either side of the touchdown point, with two red and two white lights on each side indicating 'on slope'.
This photo was taken on 5 March 2009 after an approach with a ceiling just above the ILS minimum.
Roll your cursor over the image to get a night-time view of the same lighitng system taken on 31 March 1978 - thirty one years earlier!
The major difference is the T-VASIS visual approach slope guidance system rather than PAPI in the daytime photo. The T-VASIS is showing 3 lights 'fly up', indicating the aircraft is well below the correct glideslope.
Also prominent are the green threshold lights, the white runway edge lights and the white inset touchdown zone lights that together go to make up the complete lighting system for a precision approach runway.
Click here to return to the main Communications & Navigation index
Click here to return to the main Airports & Aerodromes index
If this page appears appears without menu bars at top and left, click here