What color lights do airplanes have?

Airplanes are important for transport and travel. But what color light do airplanes have? What do the colors represent? Learn about it in this article

For centuries and since the discovery of electricity and lights, lights have become much more than being a source of illumination to being a form of signal. During the ancient wars of medieval times, even though there was no electricity, they lit torches as a signal in times of battle.

Fast-forward to recent times and light is still very much in use for signaling. Depending on how it is used and what color is adapted; red lights, yellow light, green lights all have varying meanings which all depends on the situation at hand. Red light is often associated with danger or to come to a halt, while green is for go and yellow is to get ready. However, this is for automobiles and when it comes to road usage. 

Let’s look at the lights found in airplanes and what the flashing signifies

All airplanes have lights on them; on the external parts.  These lights help pilots to see outside the planes and easily spot other forms of aircraft. These lights can be further divided into the following;

  • Taxi lights:

The function of this light is similar to that of headlights generally in vehicles. They are used to give illumination to the taxiway, where the plane runs to gain momentum before eventually taking off. These lights are located on the wing of the plane and the nose gear strut and sometimes could be either of them. An example is the 767 airplane that has its taxi light on the nose gear that focuses on the front. In addition to this, there is also a different kind of light called to turn off lights. And they are positioned such that the pilot could see a little to the right and left using both of them. They are usually used if the airplane is to turn on the taxiway.

  • Landing lights:

This is the second type of light and it is located underneath the wings of the plane or just below the fuselage instead. Its sole purpose is to illuminate the runway during the plane’s take-off and when it is landing. These lights are very bright, so bright that, if someone were to look directly into this light with the naked eyes, it could damage the person’s retina. The lights are already turned on before the plane hits the ground at least around 200 feet before it reaches the runway.

On the other hand, some lights help planes avoid collisions.

There are quite a lot of airplanes that fly about every day making sure people get to their destinations across countries and continents. Often, a number of these airplanes pass along the same route and it is this anti-collision light that signals to these pilots and makes sure that they do not collide into another. These lights are easy to spot by the pilots and anyone. These lights are placed at different positions and have varying colors. They include;

Wings of the airplane:  On the wings of an airplane, the lights there are either red or green. There is usually one such color on each wingtip. The two of them cannot be on the same tip. Usually, the green-colored light is on the right, and the red light is found on the left.

Just in case you’re wondering why

The idea of using colored lights on the wingtips came from captains of ships in the 1800s. It was used well to prevent the collisions of ships because ships do collide a lot. This idea worked very well that it was adopted on aircraft and spacecraft too.

In addition to these colored lights on wingtips, the airplanes also have white lights that are kept at the back. These lights are not only found to be useful in the night but they are useful also during the day.

These lights are called “position lights”. They have no other function than in the determining of the position and direction of another airplane or aircraft and that is how they got this name position light.

Flashing, Blinking, Anti-collision lights :

Not all of these lights blink, but then once that so they make them easily noticeable. These lights are usually very bright. Of course, they need to because the safety of lives depends on it.

Red flicking lights are placed on top and at the base of the airplanes, while there are white lights at the wingtips. These lights are designed to face the back. These white lights are usually what we notice like white flicking dots in the sky when an airplane is passing through.

If you can come up close to an airplane, you’d notice that the bright blinking red lights are usually the first thing that is switched on just before the airplane’s engine starts working and it is usually the last thing on the plane to be turned off after the landing of a plane.  The blinking red light, as opposed to the feeling of danger, is a reassuring sign to ground personnel. This means that as long as these lights are blinking the engines are working and that the area should not be approached.

The other white light that is useful only on the taxi or runways are only switched on if they are needed, else they could be a distraction to other pilots.

How are all these lights controlled?

Every light’s control switch is placed within the reach of the pilot. There is an overhead panel at the cockpit located within the reach of the pilot. This is what gives him easy access to the lights as at when needed. The controls for the taxi and runway lights are placed on the left. At the bottom of the panel, you have the landing lights control, which is somewhat bigger than the first ones. However, the biggest of these is the black push switches which control the anti-collision and illumination lights at the wings.

Is it a must to go flying with the landing lights?

Even after takeoff and landing, these lights might be kept on for a while longer. This is just so we prevent collisions from other airplanes who might also be going from opposite directions at the airport at the same time.

They are for illuminating the runway tracks but they could also function as anti-collision lights at that very moment.