Airport expansion, upgrading, the new Nelspruit Kruger Mpumalanga airport and the proposed construction of the major King Shaka Airport at La Mercy near Durban have created demand for a highly specialised electrical cable to supply power for critical runway lighting systems.

Aberdare Cables, a major local manufacturer of power cable products and systems, has developed a specialist cable to meet the strict requirements of civil and commercial aviation authorities for runway lighting.

Johan du Plessis, Aberdare product manager said the insulated airfield lighting cable is the only locally manufactured cable that meets the specifications and standards required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) L824 AC 150/5345 7E and South African national Standard (SANS) 1411 Part 1: Conductors (metric conductors).

"Our airfield lighting cable has been designed for runways series circuits to connect the constant current regulator with the primary windings of the series transformers. This network configuration ensures that each runway lamp emits the same amount of light thus removing pilot distance perception errors caused by tapering lamp intensity. The cable is brass screened to ensure higher mechanical resistance against termites and rodents and can therefore be directly buried underground. Where enhanced mechanical properties are not required, copper screening is available."

Du Plessis added that the cable is also semi-conductive screened with a woven tape that allows it to be safely operated continuously at the nominal voltage rating of 2.8kV to ground. The conductor comprises single 6mm2 cross-sectional area seven-wire tinned annealed copper, screened by an extruded semi-conducting layer to minimise electric stress around it. Cross-linked polyethylene insulation provides the cable with superior electrical and mechanical characteristics.

"It is extremely reliable, which is critical in runway lighting applications. There is growth potential in this specialised niche market and Aberdare, as the only local manufacturer of cable to the specifications and standards required by aviation authorities, is geared up to support local projects such as the King Shaka International Airport near Durban, construction of which is scheduled to commence in the near future."

The King Shaka Airport will include a four-million-passenger-a-year terminal, runway, air-traffic control tower, fuel farm and related infrastructure. There are more than 20 formally recognised commercial passenger Airports in South Africa which in their own right create a market through runway extensions, upgrading and the construction of new runways.