A Guide to Different Aircraft Lights and What They Do


Aircrafts have always been fascinating to many people. How do they stay in the air? How do you fly them? And why do they have so many different lights? Whether you are interested in learning more about aircrafts for professional reasons, or you are a passenger during the time of Covid-19 and just want to learn more out of curiosity, an easy place to start is the different types of aircraft lights.

Aircrafts have various lights, and each is needed for a different reason. There are different sizes, different colors, and different intensities of aircraft lights. It can be intimidating to know where to start, which is why we’ve put together a helpful guide to the most common aircraft lights that can be found on nearly any aircraft.

Strobe lights

Strobe lights are lights that flash bright white at regular intervals. The size of the aircraft will have an effect on how many strobe lights it will need, since larger aircrafts need more strobe lights than smaller ones, which might need as few as one or two.

They are used to make the aircraft more visible, so they are turned on when an aircraft is approaching a landing strip. Whelen strobe light kits are extra useful when visibility is low, such as at night or during heavy weather.

Wing lights

While not all aircrafts have these, it’s not a bad idea. When you’re in the air, visibility is a key factor. The more lights on an aircraft the better the chances of it being seen. Wing lights usually stretch along each wing in order to make them more visible. They can also be used as a way to detect any damage that the wings might have.

Landing lights

Whether you are an experienced pilot, just learning to fly, or perhaps even just a passenger, you should be aware of the fact that the landing of an aircraft is one of the most vital parts of a flight journey. That’s why aircrafts need landing lights.

Landing lights can be found in various areas of an aircraft, and, as the name suggests, they play an important role in the landing of an aircraft. They are bright white lights that are always used at night, and often during the day as well.

They give people on the ground enough notice that an aircraft is about to land, so that they have sufficient time to get out of the way, and they can also help the  pilot with visibility if the runway is poorly lit or the weather is making it hard to see where to land.

Taxi lights

Taxi lights are located right at the front of the aircraft’s nose, and are used whenever the aircraft is moving on the ground. This helps with the aircraft’s visibility during takeoff, and landing. While aircrafts are designed to stay in the air, they also spend a fair bit of time on the ground, so it’s important to ensure that they are visible during this period as well.

Navigation lights

Navigating an aircraft is a skill. Over the years, the methods of navigation have changed drastically as technology has evolved. Navigation lights are placed at the tip of each wing. If you are facing the same direction as the pilot, the light on the right wing is green, and the one on the left is red.

The reason for the different colors is that it can often be hard to tell in which direction an aircraft is moving as you approach it, especially at night. The different colored lights make it possible to determine whether another aircraft is moving in the same or opposite direction as the one you’re on.

Anti-collision lights

As you can tell from the name, anti-collision lights are vital in preventing two aircrafts from colliding. Aircraft collisions don’t happen very often, since there aren’t as many aircrafts in the air at one given time as there are cars on the road. It’s still important to have anti-collision lights on an aircraft, though, in case it does happen to cross paths with another aircraft.

These rotating orange or red lights attract attention from any pilots that are flying other aircrafts and make it easier for them to get out the way. These lights are usually on for the entire duration of the flight, from the moment before the engines turn on until after the last engine has been turned off. It is therefore also a way to see whether any engines in the plane are active at any given time.