A Quick Guide on When To Use Aircraft Lights
When it comes to aircraft lights, there’s a bit of ambiguity on all the rules and regulations. So, sometimes people don’t really pay any attention or care. Most pilots just do as they were taught. But that’s not good enough, so here’s a short explanation on the different lights.
Position lights - Also known as the navigation lights, they’re a right green light, a left red light, and a tail white light that are always required to be on at night, from sunset to sunrise, to help indicate direction and location to other pilots.
Anti-collision light systems - Including the aircraft beacon and/or strobe lights, these are used to further help other pilots determine where the aircraft’s location and direction is. The FAA mandates that an aircraft with anti-collision lights must not operate without the anti-collision lights on, unless the pilot deems it necessary for them to be turned off in the interest of safety. For example, if they’re going to blind ground personnel, they should probably stay off. Because of this weird ambiguous wording, you’ll see pilots with both strobe and beacon lights on, and you’ll see pilots with only one or the other on.
Landing/Taxi lights - Optional lights subject to the discretion of the pilot, they’re typically used at night to help illuminate the runway or for anti-collision.
The FAA also has a program called “Operation Lights On”, which encourages pilots to use lights for anti-collision purposes. “Operation Lights On” says that it’s recommended to turn on navigation, position, anti-collision, and logo-lights prior to taxiing. It also says that pilots should signal intent to other pilots by turning on the taxi light when the aircraft is moving or intending to move and turn it off when they are stopping or yielding to ground traffic. Landing lights should be used for takeoff/landing, or anytime they are at an altitude below 10,000 feet and within 10 miles of an airport; all lights should be turned on when crossing an active runway; and strobe lights shouldn’t be used during taxi if it’s a hazard.
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Posted on January 22, 2019