Airliner Exterior Lights


Air Serbia airliner with taxi lights illuminated

While spotting airliners during the day can sometimes be difficult, nighttime air operations make the process even harder. Included on this page are the basics of exterior airliner lighting to help identify various airliners during night airport operations.

Commonly Used Exterior Aircraft Lights

  • Landing Lights - normally mounted on the wings, landing gear or underneath the fuselage. These narrow beam lights are the brightest on an airliner. Some are retractable into the body of the plane, while others are embedded in the wing. Normally used at altitudes below 10,000 feet.
  • Taxi Lights - Installed on nose gear or under the wings, and provide light several feet in front of the aircraft during taxi operations.
  • Runway Turn-Off Lights - Installed on nose gar or wings, and are aimed to the right and left of the aircraft to facilitate safe movement on runways and taxiways.
  • Position (or Navigation) Lights - These forward-facing lights are installed at the tip of the wings; a red light on the left, and green light on the right. Rear-facing position lights are white.
  • Red Anti-Collision Lights - Red flashing lights/beacons are located on the top and bottom of the airliner. Pilots turn these lights on before starting the engines and prior to pushback. Likewise, pilots will turn the lights off just after the parking brake is set and the engines are shut down at the end of a flight.
  • White Flashing Anti-Collision Lights (Strobes) - These strobe lights are installed at the tip of each wing, and are visible for miles. Crews turn the lights on before¬†takeoff, and off immediately after landing.
  • Logo Lights - Mounted on the horizontal stabilizer to light the airline's logo on the vertical fin.
  • Wing Inspection Lights - Installed on the side of the fuselage, forward of the wing, and aimed to the rear to light the leading edge and top of the wing.

Shown below is a graphic identifying commonly used exterior lights on airliners.

Exterior lights on a typical jetliner

 

Boeing and Airbus Airliner Operations at Night

One way to tell Boeing and Airbus airliners apart at night is by examining the pattern of the white light at the tip of the wing, known as the strobe.

Boeing wing strobe lights flash only once, while Airbus airliners flash twice in rapid succession.

Airliner Lights in Action at Night

Airbus A340 on final approach with landing lights lit along with red and green position lights
Airliner on final approach with landing lights lit along with red and green position lights

Airliner on taxi way showing green (right wing) and red (left wing) position lights
Airliner on taxi way showing green (right) and red (left) position lights

Boeing 777 of Cathay Pacific with red anti-collision flashing lights on top and bottom of fuselage
and logo lights illuminating the tail
Boeing 777 of Cathay Pacific with red anti-collision flashing lights on top and bottom of fuselage


Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777-300 on the apron at night
PIA Boeing 777-300 at the gate at night

 

More Resources

BOEING   |   AIRBUS   |   EMBRAER   |   BOMBARDIER   |   FEATURED MANUFACTURERS
AIRLINER SPOTTING GUIDE   |   BOEING VS AIRBUS SPOTTING TIPS
2-ENGINE   |   3-ENGINE   |   4-ENGINE   |   TURBOPROP   |   SITE MAP
ABOUT   |   PRIVACY POLICY   |   TERMS OF USE   |   CONTACT US

Copyright ¬© 2019 AirlinerSpotter.com  All Rights Reserved.