Ask Captain Dan Baz – Our Resident Pilot Answers Flight Questions. Significance of Exterior Plane Lights?

CFN –  Pilot Dan Baz is answering your flying questions here on the Cornwall Free News. If you have a question about flying you can email Captain Dan or post below.


What is the significance of all the external lights on airplanes ?

Question asked by Bill


There are numerous external lights on airplanes (and helicopters). They can be divided into two categories; 1) lights that are on when the airplane is in operation  and   2) lights that are on when the airplane is close, or on the ground, for takeoff and landing.
As airplanes operate in a three dimensional environment, they must be visible from all directions.

Navigation or position lights, consist of a red light on the left wing tip (left when looking forward from the pilot’s seat), green light on the right wing tip and a white light visible from the back of the airplane. The purpose of these lights is, so that pilots in other airplanes can see, particularly at night, in which direction the airplane is moving.

Red flashing beacons or red strobe lights are mounted on top and bottom of the fuselage.  These are warning lights, particularly for airport ground personnel, that the airplane is in motion and engines are in operation. Pilot turns these red flashing lights on just before the engines are started or the airplane is about to move and turns them off after the airplane stops and the engines are shut down.

White strobe flashing lights on wing tips help other pilots spot another airplane in the sky. They are normally turned on just as the airplane entres the runway for take off and are turned off after the airplane exits the runway after landing.

A taxi light is usually installed on the nose landing gear.  This light is like a head light on a car, it illuminates the airport taxiways in front of the airplane. Landing lights are very bright lights shining forward, usually installed on the wings or the fuselage of the airplane.  They are used to make the airplane more visible when it is approaching the runway and to illuminate the runway for pilots for landing.  These lights are also used for take off, at lower altitudes and also during daytime, to make the airplane more visible.

A bit more about Captain Dan:

Captain Dan Baz enrolled in Flight School at the age of 16.
He has completed studies in Aircraft Engineering and Master of Business Administration. He has been at the controls of many different types of aircraft, from single engine Cessnas to large intercontinental jets on global routes.

Over the last four decades he has flown thousands of hours up in the blue sky.

Have a question for the Captain ? Send it to Captain Dan Baz Every week a question from the readers will be selected and answer posted in this column.

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