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Methow Airport Rotating Beacon - Frequently Asked Questions

Is Methow a federally-funded airport?

Yes, the Methow Valley State Airport is a federally-funded airport that is included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). For more than 23 years, WSDOT has received federal grants for projects at Methow.

The NPIAS is comprised of nearly 3,400 existing and proposed airports that are significant to the national air transportation, and thus eligible to receive federal grants under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP). The NPIAS contains all commercial service airports, all reliever airports, and selected general aviation airports.

What is the purpose of a rotating beacon?

The main purpose of the beacon is to indicate the location of a lighted airport to pilots. It is also an integral part of an airfield lighting system.

All airport rotating beacons project a beam of light in two directions, 180 degrees apart. For civil land fields only, the optical system consists of one green lens and one clear lens. The rotating mechanism is designed to rotate the beacon to produce alternate clear and green flashes of light with a flash rate of 24-30 flashes per minute.

Why was the rotating beacon installed at Methow?

As Methow Valley State Airport is a federally obligated airport with a runway edge light system installed with federal funds, the airport owner must equip the airport with a rotating airport beacon. Accordingly, an airport beacon must meet the requirements in Advisory Circular (AC) 150/5345-12F, “Specification for Airport and Heliport Beacons.”

Why do beacons operate from dusk until dawn?

FAA AC 150/5340-30F, “Design and Installation Details for Airport Visual Aids,” states the airport beacon may not be radio-controlled. Any other lighting systems (such as a rotating beacon) that are not radio-controlled will continue to operate at night while the radio-controlled systems (such as runway edge lights) are off or at a reduced light intensity.

How was the public informed about the beacon?

Why was the beacon turned off?

WSDOT activated the beacon on July 14 and deactivated it on July 18 in response to community concerns.

Why is WSDOT conducting a visual impact analysis?

WSDOT is conducting a visual impact analysis to study the effects of the beacon and to obtain more input from the community.

What was the purpose of the testing?

Crews tested different angles of the beacon (8- to 12-degrees) and shielding options on Nov. 5-7. The purpose of the testing was to observe the beacon at different angles, take video and still images, test shielding options, and obtain more public feedback. WSDOT considers the visual analysis report a prerequisite for a thoroughly-researched and well-vetted modification to standards request to the FAA for pilot-controlled lighting.

Why was the beacon turned off and on intermittently during testing?

Crews took before and after images of the beacon while off and on for observation and comparison. They also traveled to various observation points to examine the effects of the beacon on the community. This level of detail by experts in the field will lend to a more thorough analysis.

How was the public informed of the testing?

WSDOT sent two press releases regarding the testing, as well as emails to community members who have commented on the beacon in the past.

WSDOT also sent a press release again on Nov. 6 when the beacon testing times changed from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., to 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 

Where can I find the visual report?

The report was release in February 2013, and is available at: Methow Valley Airport Beacon Visual Report (pdf 1,400 kb),

How will WSDOT use the visual analysis and community feedback?

WSDOT will incorporate all public comments into the final visual analysis report, which will be used to communicate with the FAA on possible solutions. The report recommended obtaining approval from the FAA for a modification to standards to convert the beacon to pilot-controlled.

What happens if the FAA does not approve WSDOT’s request for a modification to standards to convert the beacon to pilot-controlled?

In the event the FAA Headquarters in Washington DC does not approve the modification request, WSDOT will work closely with our partners at the FAA Seattle Airports District Office in Renton to determine the appropriate reimbursement of federal funding required to permit the state to operate a non-standard beacon (pilot-controlled).

Contact Information

Paul Wolf,
WSDOT State Airports Manager
P.O. Box 3367
Arlington, WA 98223
(360) 651-6313
(360) 651-6319 Fax
Email: wolfp@wsdot.wa.gov