Airplane lights | Why do airplanes have red & green lights at wing ends ?



We all do know what headlights & side lights/indicators are for on our motorbikes and cars but what are those blinking lights on an aeroplane ? Why do we need them & other airplane lights ?

Long time ago, I had this question that why aircrafts have flashing lights on them & especially green & red lights on each of the ends of wings ! Ever noticed ? What are those lights ? What are they for ? So here they are & their reasons !

Airplane lights consist of –Position of all the lights on an aircraft !

  • Navigation/Position lights(1)
  • Strobe lights(3)
  • Red rotating beacon
  • Taxi & landing lights
  • Logo lights(4)

Image :- The image shows all the position of lights located on an aircraft.
By Tosaka [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons



Navigation/Position lights :-

The name itself suggests that these lights are used to help other airplanes navigate themselves by signalling our position. These include red & green lights located at the extreme two lateral points on aircrafts & marine vessals !
The high intensity RED lights in the left/port side & GREEN light on the right hand/starboard side !

Suppose the PILOT of an aircraft observes another aircraft during night time. In a situation where the paths of both the aircrafts cross each other, these lights help to determine the position & direction of the other one.

why we need navigation lights/ red & green lights on aeroplane

2 cases explaining how navigation lights help pilot during flight.

Lets understand how –
Case A1 –
A helicopter is moving in forward direction & an aircraft is seen in the left side.
The pilot of the helicopter sees the GREEN light towards itself which means that the airplane is moving towards the helicopter(will cross the helicopters path) which means that there is a chance of crashing & pilot needs to be careful.

Case A2 –
A helicopter is moving in forward direction & an aircraft is seen in the right side.
The pilot of the helicopter again sees the GREEN light towards itself which means that the airplane has already crossed the path & is moving away from helicopter & there is no danger of being crashed.

Similarly, there would be cases – B1 & B2 when the pilot of the aircraft would see red light towards itself.
Navigation lights were first used on marine vessals & later were developed for aircrafts.

Image :- Navigation lights on a marine vessal. By Claudio Elias [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Strobe lights :-

Strobe lights are high intensity flash lights located at the wing tips. These are blinky lights which you are able to see with your naked eyes even when you are miles away from it ! These lights enables pilot to recognize position of other pilots’ aircrafts. They are the brightest lights on an airplane. You can guess how bright they would be that you are able to see them miles above your head even in broad daylight !
They are so bright that they can even cause temporary blindness to a man working on a runway & this is the reason they are turned off on the ground !
Strobe lights serve as a part of an anti-collision light system !

Red rotating beacon :-

Red rotating beacon on top of an passenger aeroplane.

Red rotating beacon on top of an passenger aeroplane. Credits:- Ken Hoke

The red rotating beacon is located on the top & bottom sides of the aeroplanes. The red blinking light when turned ON, is a WARNING! that the engines are running & the surrounding area is not safe for work. Those big jet engines could either suck you up OR could throw you several metres away with its extremely hot & high speed exhaust gases ! The red rotating beacon also is a part of anti-collision light system.



Taxi & Landing lights :-

Taxi & landing lights on a Boeing 777

Taxi & landing lights on a Boeing 777

Taxi lights are installed generally on the nose gear strut. They light up the runway & the taxiway while taking off & landing during night times but they are also kept on during daytime. Similarly, landing lights are located under the wing near the fuselage section & are used for the same purpose but are angled a bit for a wider view while taking turns. Proper care should be taken by the people who work on runways, as they are too bright & can cause serious retinal damage and/or  temporary blindness which could also lead to accidents !

Logo lights :-

Logo lights are simple lights which are located on the tail fin of an aircraft & are just used to illuminate the logo of the company !

Hope this made your day 🙂 . You might also like – Why are brake lights red ?

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