Maintenance Matters

May 2015 Issue

HID vs. LED: Brightness Costs Bucks

HIDs turn night into day and although not as bright, LEDs offer better contrast and almost limitless bulb life over incandescents. For the price, they ought to.

Anyone perusing the lighting aisle at the local Home Depot will have noticed that the lowly incandescent bulb is an endangered species, having been displaced by LEDs and CFLs. The burgeoning LED market has spilled over into aviation in the form of landing, taxi and recognition lights. (Thankfully, we’ve been spared the CFLs.) Add to this the availability of another light technology, HIDs, and owners have more choice than ever in upgrading over the ancient GE tractor bulb that’s illuminated runways for decades. Never mind that this new technology costs 10 to 100 times more than an off-the-shelf GE 4509, how does it perform? We’ll get to that in this article, but first note that the lighting market has expanded since we last examined the topic six years ago. There are more choices in HID and LED and more approved systems. In some cases, prices appear to have decreased, a welcome exception to everything else in aviation.

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