Thanks to an obscure UseNet newsgroup post archived by Google Groups
(http://groups.google.com/), I have found the answer to your mystery
They are "circling lights" used at Norwegian airports.
Mountainous terrain around airports can make approaches from certain
headings difficult or dangerous, particularly in bad weather
conditions. To ensure a safe approach, Norwegian airports use a series
of ground lights, laid out in arcs, that safely guide the pilot in a
specific flight path to the end of the runway.
Because circling lights describe curved paths that are only visible
from the air, individual lights may appear to be randomly placed when
seen from the ground.
Note the following nine-year-old newsgroup post (in Google Groups):
"From: Lars-Henrik Eriksson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Re: Navigation by ground lights? (non-empty this time!)
View: Complete Thread (4 articles) | Original Format
Date: 1993-04-04 05:55:39 PST
"...Many Norwegian airports use an extensive circling light system.
Often, the airport is located deep in a fiord, so there is only one
approach direction - over the fiord. Should the wind blow the wrong
way, circling to the other runway can be really hairy at night or in
poor visibility conditions. To facilitate, there is a system of
circling lights that defines the proper flight path.
The most amazing example I've seen is the localiser approach to Mo i
Rana. The localiser leads to a place about 2.5 nautical miles from the
airport - the missed approach point is 2 miles further away, and a 120
degree turn is required to line up with the nearest runway. Six
circling lights are used to define the route from the MAP to the
threshold. Should a landing in the opposite direction be required,
four additional circling lights defines a teardrop-like manouver from
the airport to threshold of the opposite runway."
I found a flight simulator chart of Norway's Mo i Rana airport
mentioned in the newsgroup post above. Note how a pilot encounters the
radio marker first, then follows a series of red "circling lights"
(red diamonds) to the runway (yellow band):
Russvoll, Mo I Rana (Norway)
Red lights are used at Mo I Rana for the highest night visibility.
Note the 3D airplane illustration: if the pilot missed the red
circling lights, there's a good chance he would impact the mountain to
the right of the airport. The width of the circling path is slightly
more than one-half nautical mile (1000 meters, about 3200 feet), so
there's not much room for error.
Here is a less extreme airport example with white circling lights
defining circular approaches on both sides of the runway:
Valan, Honningsvag (Norway)
This airport uses red and white circling lights:
Sorkjosen, Sorkjosen (Norway)
For additional details, I suggest that you contact the Norwegian civil
The United States' Federal Aviation Administration has some additional
Norway aviation information and links here:
FAA International Flight Information
FYI, the FAA's master list of civil aviation authorities of countries
around the world is here:
Civilian Aviation Authorities of the World
Although I did not see anything about "circling lights" on their Web
site, the major international aviation organization is:
International Civil Aviation Organization - ICAO
"One of ICAO's chief activities is standardization, the establishment
of International Standards, Recommended Practices and Procedures
covering the technical fields of aviation: licensing of personnel,
rules of the air, aeronautical meteorology, aeronautical charts, units
of measurement, operation of aircraft, nationality and registration
marks, airworthiness, aeronautical telecommunications, air traffic
services, search and rescue, aircraft accident investigation,
aerodromes, aeronautical information services, aircraft noise and
engine missions, security and the safe transport of dangerous goods.
After a Standard is adopted it is put into effect by each ICAO
Contracting State in its own territories."
A list of ICAO member nations can be seen here (Norway is among them):
ICAO Contracting States (188)
(As of 20 June 2002)
If you would like to find out additional ICAO information, here is
contact information for their European regional office:
ICAO, European and North Atlantic Office
3 bis villa Émile-Bergerat,
Tel: + 33 1 46 41 85 85
Fax: + 33 1 46 41 85 00
I appreciate your question: you are not the only one who learned
something new about international aviation.
Search Terms & Google Results:
night runway approach ground lights
norway "circling lights"
airport landing lights
airport runway lights
airport lighting standards