Generally, most maintenance tasks require between 75 foot-candles and 100 foot-candles for aircraft hangar light levels. Although more detailed maintenance tasks may require additional illumination. General line inspections (e.g., easily noticeable dents) may only require 50 foot-candle; however, most inspection tasks demand much higher levels.

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Aircraft Hangar Light Levels

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Aircraft maintenance hangars must have high levels of visibility and good color rendering in order for personnel to detect defects in airplanes and make repairs. Within the aviation maintenance industry, there are at least three major categories of workplaces, namely hangars, ramps, and shops. Of these, ramps are the least controllable in terms of workspace and environmental factors such as lighting and noise

Light level recommendations for aircraft hangars and hangar lights

Even though much aviation maintenance is performed during nighttime hours, humans are not particularly adept at performing precision work under low illumination levels. For the visual inspection tasks which make up a large proportion of routine aircraft maintenance, it is crucial that workers have adequate aircraft hangar light levels. Fortunately, much is known about appropriate lighting levels for various tasks. This is one of the few aspects of aviation maintenance facilities that has been studied from a human factors perspective. The sheer size and open volume of hangars present some challenging lighting problems for aircraft hangar light levels.

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Replacement of HID hangar lights, like high pressure sodium lamps producing only 18 foot-candles that create shadows and adverse working conditions for airplane mechanics with induction lamps will produce 100% better light. No more problems working with colored wire and small airplane parts. Plus energy efficiency is improved by more than 50%.

Since visual inspection is such an important component of aircraft maintenance, it is imperative that aircraft maintenance be performed in the most suitable work environment. Studies in aircraft maintenance have shown that poor illumination, glare, and other adverse lighting conditions could be important reasons for “eye strain” or visual fatigue. Visual fatigue results in deterioration in the efficiency of human performance during prolonged work.

Required illumination levels for aircraft maintenance

Vision can be improved by increasing the aircraft hangar light levels, but only up to a point, as the law of diminishing returns operates. Excessive illumination could result in glare. According to IES (1987), direct, focused lighting is the recommended general lighting for aircraft hangars. Maintenance of aircraft takes place in an environment where specular reflection from airplane structures can cause glare so that low brightness luminaries should be installed. Often additional task lighting will be necessary when internal work, or shadowed parts around the aircraft, result in low illumination levels.

Color Rendition. Color rendition is crucial in some maintenance tasks. Therefore, color rendition requirements must be considered. For example, many electrical wires are color-coded so they can be properly connected and traced. The color of an object depends on the color content of the light falling on or being produced by it. In fact, the color we see when we look at an object is simply what’s left over after the object absorbs all of the colors it’s going to absorb. Different types of light sources have different color compositions. For example, a red car illuminated with mercury vapor lamps in a parking lot. A car that appears bright red in the sunlight looks orange under mercury lamps. The reason is that mercury vapor lamps have very little red in their color spectrum.

Glare. Glare reduces a maintenance technician’s ability to discriminate detail and is caused when a light source in the visual field is much brighter than the task material at the workplace. Thus, open hangar doors, roof lights, or even reflections from a white object such as the work cart can cause glare. Glare can also arise from reflections from the surrounding surfaces, and can be reduced by resorting to indirect lighting.

Reflectance. Every surface reflects some portion of the light it receives as measured by surface reflectance. High reflectance surfaces increase the effectiveness of luminaries and the directionality of the illumination. Thus, for an aircraft hangar, it is important that the walls and floors are of high reflectance so that they help in reflecting light and distributing it uniformly. This can be achieved by having the floor and the walls composed of reflective materials, or existing structures painted a lighter color. This is more critical under the wings and fuselage where there may not be adequate lighting, due to aircraft shadows.

Aircraft hangar light levels: The major considerations for aircraft hangar light levels and hangar lights are light characteristics, ease of handling, durability, work shift, hangar maintenance, flexibility, and other attributes

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