There are a whole series of codes that on approach plates and in the CFS to designate aerodrome lighting styles. A pilot briefing an approach when poor visibility is expected will included in the briefing, "and we'll be looking for the AC lighting." Most of the time I go into airports I know already, so I know exactly what the lights will look like, so I don't know the codes all that well. Heck, there are individual airplanes around here that I can recognize in the dark, just by the position, flash frequency, and hue of their anti-collision lighting. But it would be good for me to memorize the codes for the aerodrome lighting types, so I don't have to look them up. I have, in a different area, been surprised by an unexpected set of lights. So today I'll educate myself.
At some aerodromes the pilots have to turn on the lights as we approach. We do this by clicking the microphone with the radio tuned to the same frequency on which we announce our presence to other traffic. A good rule is to turn on the lights when you believe yourself in sight of the aerodrome: the illumination zippering along the runway is a good confirmation that you are lining up for an approach to an aerodrome, and not an old bowling alley. The timer usually keeps the lights on for fifteen minutes, so you key the sequence again as you turn final. For departure, key the lights on before taxi--that tests that your radio is working--and just before starting the takeoff roll.
This pilot activated lighting is called ARCAL, which stands for Aircraft Radio Control of Aerodrome Lighting. We just pronounce it Arr-Kal, rhymes with "bar pal" and we rarely know the correct sequence, so we just click the microphone a whole lot of times to turn it on. This is supposed to be educational, though, so I'll try to come up with a way to remember. To activate Type J ARCAL, click the microphone five times within five seconds. This turns all the lights on for fifteen minutes. To activate Type K ARCAL, click the microphone seven times within five seconds. The trick with Type K is that they are special, like Special K, the breakfast cereal (that's our new mnemonic). If you click the button three more times while the lights are already on, you can turn them down to minimum intensity. Five clicks turns them to medium and seven clicks turns them back to high, and restarts the fifteen minutes of fame.
If the runway is equipped with runway identification lights, bright strobe lights on the corners of the runway, directed towards the pilot landing at that end, then the three click low-intensity setting, extinguishes those lights, called AS.
So that's my lesson for today. Type J ARCAL is the Junior sort that only turns on. Type K is the Special sort that can be turned to different intensities. And AS is the code for the runway identification lights because "as if I want bright strobes in clear weather on short final."