Benbecula lights the way…

A vital regional airport on the remote island of Benbecula has become the first civil airport in Scotland to have its runway fully-lit by LED ground lighting.  The £150,000 improved lighting system provides greater illumination for incoming and outgoing aircraft, while simultaneously reducing the airport’s energy consumption and meeting parent firm Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) energy use aspirations.

Benbecula Airport, one of the most westerly airports in the UK, is also the first airport in the HIAL network to have its runway entirely fitted out with the energy-efficient lights.  To date, the newest generation of LED lighting is only in service at a handful of large airports in England, including Manchester and London Heathrow airports.

Station Manager Roderick MacKay said: “Benbecula is the first airport in Scotland to have its runway fully-equipped with LED lighting. So far, they have helped us greatly when visibility is bad due to cloud cover, which is particularly beneficial with the mixed weather we have on our island.  These LED lights are using 65 watts per unit of energy instead of 150 watts, which is a massive saving over the length of a runway.”

Replacement of the 153 runway lights took just under two weeks to complete in July, with no disruption to the airport’s flight schedule or the island’s 1300-strong population.

Benbecula Airport’s proximity to the severe wind and weather created by the Atlantic Ocean meant that many of the original Halogen/Tungsten fittings were prone to damage and were at greater risk of periodic outages.  The upgraded lights are less susceptible to corrosion from the salty sea air and sand from the beach, which is only 45 metres away from the runway.  The ground lights were provided by industry experts OCEM Airfield Technology and fitted by specialists from Precision ATM Ltd.

During the course of the installation, local electricians were given a training course in how to maintain the LED ground lighting to ensure its operability in all weather conditions.  Scotland’s only LED runway light installation at Benbecula is so powerful that tourists are stopping nearby to enjoy the sight of aeroplanes landing and taking off from the airfield.  Roderick McKay added: “The lights are incredible. We knew they were going to be good, but we didn’t think they would be this good.  HIAL have invested a six-figure sum into this critical community link to the mainland. These lights will help us continue to improve our service and reliability for all passengers to and from Benbecula.”


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About Benbecula Airport

Benbecula Airport – a key transport service for those travelling between the Hebridean islands and the mainland – has a storied history as a World War-era RAF base and latterly as a headquarters for the unmanned military aircraft radar station and missile testing range nearby.

The airfield was home to several RAF squadrons tasked with defending the northern Atlantic Ocean from German U-boat patrols until 1947.

Benbecula itself is connected to North and South Uist by way of several road causeways, with the first causeway constructed to connect the RAF base to the port at Lochboisdale in 1942.

During the Cold War, a control centre for the Hebrides missile testing range was positioned in the grounds of the current-day airport. The airport was updated in 2002 in readiness for the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet testing programme.

Today the airport handles roughly 32,000 passengers and 3,700 aircraft movements per year.

About Highlands and Islands Airports Limited

Benbecula Airport is part of a network of 11 airports across Scotland run by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, providing a vital transport link for remote communities such as Tiree, Sumburgh, Islay, Stornoway and Wick John O’Groats. HIAL airports are regional hubs in their area, supporting everything from oil and gas helicopter operations to mail delivery and lighthouse maintenance, as well as passenger transit.

In 2014-15, the HIAL group handled more than 1.43 million passengers and now connects Scotland to more than 30 UK and international destinations including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, London, Geneva and Bergen.

HIAL is headquartered in Inverness and employs approximately 600 people across Campbeltown, Islay, Tiree, Barra, Benbecula, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Wick John O’Groats, Inverness and Dundee airports.