Airliner Exterior Lights
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.
- 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.
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 taxi way showing green (right wing) and red (left wing) 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
| Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777-300 on the apron at night