Why Runway Status Lights are – after 20 years in service – still a great option to guarantee passenger safety.

year 2021

When it comes to safety, aviation has a strong record and both airlines and airports are implementing solutions that safeguard the lives of all passengers. While safety gets a high priority there is more that can be done to avoid incidents at airports when the airplane is ready for take-off. Runway Status Lights (RWSL), developed by the FAA and recommended by many organizations like the ICAO and the Sesar joint undertaking should be considered when airports look at further optimizing their safety strategy.

But what are Runway Status Lights?

Runway Status Lights is a fully automatic, warning system designed to reduce the number and severity of runway incursions and prevent runway accidents while not interfering with airport operations. The FAA developed Runway Status Lights. The system aims to improve air crew and vehicle operator situational awareness through accurate and timely indication of runway usage.

In the meantime Runway Status Light systems have been commissioned at twenty US airports (see Not long ago a report on the effectiveness of RWSL at 15 airports found an overall 52% reduction in the average runway incursion rate, with 15,484 potential lives saved by the technology. ICAO has at several intervals also called on RWSL to be implemented on a wider scale as they have proven quite successful in the US and in Japan for the last decade besides two implementations in Europe.

Runway status lights (RWSL) include three types of high intensity LED lights: runway entrance lights (RELs), warning an aircraft about to enter the runway from a taxiway that the runway is not safe to enter, take-off hold lights (THLs) warning pilots that it is not safe to take-off from the runway, and runway intersection lights (RILs) to prevent flight crew and vehicle drivers from entering or crossing an active runway that is already occupied. Embedded in the pavement, the red warning lights alert the pilot or the vehicle driver the instant the runway is unsafe due to the detection of mobile behavior by the A-SMGCS.

The RWSL are unique in providing instant visual alerts, and can operate simultaneously with, and in addition to, other safety nets such as on-board alerts and air traffic control safety nets. The system improves awareness of runway usage and reduces the risk collision on the runway. It applies equally to aircraft and vehicle traffic and does not require additional equipment in the cockpit or driver’s cab. To see how such a system operates, check out

At OCEM Airfield we believe Runway Status Lights are a key component to guarantee the safety of every airport just like radars or FOD systems, after all safety should always get priority and it should be unambiguous, clear and easy to implement and that is what RWSL is all about.

Interested in implementing Runway Status Lights at your airport?

OCEM Airfield can help with the full integration of lights and system in an easy and transparent way. Find out how and let’s discuss!

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