Re: Airliner lights question

Date:         20 Nov 98 02:30:27 
From:         "ShawnD2112" <>
References:   1 2
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    You're pretty much spot on with the description of the lights (pardon
the pun).  Let me add a little explanation if I can.

The red and green wingtip lights as well as the white light on the tail all
work together.  They're commonly referred to as navigation lights.  Just
like the lights on a ship, they're used together to tell which direction an
aircraft is travelling at night.  They can eash only be observed within
specific arcs around the airplane.  So,  If you only see the white light,
he's directly in front of you heading away.  If you see the red and green,
he's directly in front of you heading right at you.  If you see the white
tail light and a red light, he's on your right hand side, heading obliquely
across your nose right to left.

The red flashing lights are called beacons.  Small airplanes usually have
one on top of the tail.  Bigger airplanes sometimes have them on top and on
the bottom of the fuselage.  They are supposed to be on any time the engine
is in motion and are used to denote that specific fact.

The flashing strobes are strictly attention getters, like you said.  Since
they're really annoying to other aircrew on the ground, it would not
surprise me if the thing you noticed about them tied to the gear is true.  I
don't know if it is, but it's a great idea.

Landing lights are usually only used in the pattern.  They're very bright
and can burn out easily so they are typically not left on for the duration
of the flight.  On many aircraft, they're part of the landing gear and
automatically deploy and come on when the gear is lowered.  On Cessna 152s,
they have seperate switch and a checklist item to trun off and on.  They're
typically turned off when on the landing roll-out, again because they're
really annoying to others on the ground.  They do increase visibility
immensely in the pattern.  Next time, even in the daylight, notice how much
sooner you see the light before you actually see the airframe.

hope this helps,