Methow Valley State Airport Rotating Beacon

WSDOT responds to public feedback, modifies rotating beacon at Methow Valley State Airport

Updated April 5, 2016 –The rotating beacon at the Methow Valley State Airport in Winthrop will be modified following public feedback about its operation. The modifications include a less intense beacon light that can be operated via pilot control.

The airport beacon was originally designed to operate continually from dusk to dawn at a higher intensity. After receiving community feedback that the beacon light was intrusive to residents because of Methow's unique geographical features, the Washington State Department of Transportation temporarily turned off the beacon and conducted a visual analysis to explore options to lessen the impacts to neighbors, while still preserving safe aircraft operations.

The airport's newly-modified beacon will be operational on April 25.

Methow's new rotating airport beacon will operate concurrently with the airport's runway lighting system, and pilots can activate both using the airport's Unicom frequency of 122.8 MHz. Once activated the runway lights will remain on for 15 minutes, which is recommended by the Federal Aviation Administration. The beacon light will turn off after five minutes; however, pilots can reactivate it for additional five minute intervals if necessary.

Rotating beacons are intended to help pilots identify where an airport is located by emitting flashes, much like a lighthouse.

Methow Valley State Airport is one of 16 state-managed airports in Washington. Learn more about the Methow Valley State Airport. More information on Methow is available at:


Frequently Asked Questions:

Why does the airport need a rotating beacon?

Rotating beacons are installed at lighted airports to indicate their location to pilots at night.

Where is the beacon located?

Methow's beacon is located at the northwest corner of the airport's aircraft parking apron.

Why activate a beacon when the airport hasn't had one for many years?

Methow is a federally-funded airport. FAA standards for airports with federally-funded runway lighting systems require rotating beacons to be installed.

How bright is the new rotating beacon compared to the beacon installed in 2012?

FAA uses a brightness measurement for certification known as "Peak Effective Intensity."

The previously installed (L-801A HBM150/2) beacon, manufactured by Hali-Brite, had a Peak Effective Intensity of 87,463 candelas.

The new (Manairco AB-500P64) beacon has a Peak Effective Intensity of approx. 25,000 candelas.

Why did WSDOT change the beacon to the Manairco style beacon?

The old beacon was a pulse-start metal-halide lamp and could not be used in a pilot-radio controlled setting, as it took three to five minutes to reach full brightness. The newly-modified beacon can be turned off and re-lighted instantly.

What angle setting is the new light?

The beacon is set at five degrees above the horizon, which is the factory setting.

Did WSDOT conduct a study on the potential direct and indirect impacts to visual quality?

Yes, WSDOT analyzed the impacts of the beacon on the community and prepared the Methow Valley Airport beacon Visual Report  in February 2013.

How will the new beacon light impact visual quality of the Methow Valley?

WSDOT Aviation followed recommendations of the report by retrofitting the beacon from continuous dusk-to-dawn operations to enable pilot-controlled operation on an as needed basis.

Additional measures were taken to reduce the duration of operation to five minutes. Pilots can reactivate the beacon for additional five minute intervals if needed.

More information:
Paul Wolf
WSDOT State Airports Manager

Available Information for Methow Valley State

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