pizzaandplanes
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Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 5:17 am

During the night planes obviously have to turn on their annoying flashing lights for safety. Why are the lights different colors and what do they represent? I know that red lights at night usually have to do with preserving night vision. Is their any particular reason why the lights are what they are?
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futurecaptain
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 5:29 am

Red on left wing. Green on right wing. White in the tail. It lets you tell which direction other aircraft are flying in relation to you at night. If you see red and white you are seeing the left wing only and the plane is crossing your path from right to left. And vice versa for green.
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aogdesk
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 5:31 am

Hhhmmmm...I've never found any aircraft lights to be annoying, unless of course someone flips the switch of a 600W landing light at the exact moment I peer into it from 12 inches away....... Wink

Are you speaking of exterior lights or interior?

Red lights associated with preserving night vision would only be those in the cockpit, and they're used sparingly. Any exterior lights would be white (landing/taxi/turnoff/wing inspection/etc) with exception of the rotating/strobe beacons (top & bottom of fuselage, and the wingtip nav/position lights, which are red on the left side of the airplane, green on the right.
 
SlamClick
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 5:44 am

Red - port
Green - starboard
White - aft

All come from ships. Been that way for a very long time.
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KELPkid
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 7:21 am

To add to everyone's responses above:

Required by law: "Rotating" (and/or electronically pulsated) anticollision beacon, red in color
Optional (I think it's now required, but on the older birds that I tend to fly, it's not required as per grandfathering): white strobes on the wingtips. These are usually turned off on the ground, as they are hell for nightvision for other pilots... However, they are quite a bit more visible during daylight than the anticollision beacon. If the plane is equipped with them, I will operate them from the time I take the runway until I turn off the runway, it goes a long way towards "see and bee seen." They can also be legally turned off in the clouds, as operating strobes in the clouds can be quite disorienting.

Also: landing lights (required by law for a night landing on airliners, optional for non-commercial operations). The very bright, forward-looking white lights that you see when the plane is lined up for the runway.
taxi lights: landing lights are usually turned off once the plane is off of the runway (to avoid blinding other pilots at night), and the taxi lights are turned on. These are aimed downward, so the flight crew can see the ground/pavement markings ahead, and not blind other flight crews  Wink
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bok269
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 7:31 am

Is the purpose of the beacons so that pilots don't mistake them for fixed points (buildings, stars, etc.)?
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Starlionblue
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 8:52 am

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 3):
Red - port
Green - starboard
White - aft

All come from ships. Been that way for a very long time.

Indeed. Just like knots and pilots and captains and fathoms (err... not that one) and pursers and stewards/stewardesses and first officers and engineers and navigators and cruise and sink and...

Quoting Bok269 (Reply 5):
Is the purpose of the beacons so that pilots don't mistake them for fixed points (buildings, stars, etc.)?

Intersting idea. But don't mast lights also blink?
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KELPkid
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 8:58 am

Quoting Bok269 (Reply 5):
Is the purpose of the beacons so that pilots don't mistake them for fixed points (buildings, stars, etc.)?

That might be part of it, but the fact that it's called the "Anticollision" beacon should tell you it's real purpose in life  Wink
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SlamClick
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 9:04 am

Quoting KELPkid (Reply 7):
but the fact that it's called the "Anticollision" beacon should tell you it's real purpose in life

I was once sitting up front on a ground stop when a passenger stuck his head in the cockpit and looked around. Spotting the rotating beacon switch (labeled ANTICOLLISION) he said: "Dont forget that switch when we take off!" Sensing that he was okay with stuff like this I replied that it was more of a postulate than a guarantee.

edit: BTW the only one I know for sure actually prevented a collision was the logo light. I was able to pick up another plane over the city of Los Angeles because the logo light made the vertical fin look like a huge sail flying across town. Sometimes lights, especially flashing lights don't give you a lot of positional information in one shot. I was staring at a rotating beacon down near Seal Beach one night, trying to get a clear picture of which way it was headed when suddenly I was looking at RIVETS!!

Best thing lights can do is enhance situational awareness.

[Edited 2007-08-28 02:08:23]
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Jetlagged
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:49 am

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 6):
Indeed. Just like knots and pilots and captains and fathoms (err... not that one) and pursers and stewards/stewardesses and first officers and engineers and navigators and cruise and sink and...

.... cockpits and nautical style uniforms.
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pilotpip
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 11:10 am

The red flashing beacons are on any time the engines are turning or the plane is being moved, under its own power or towed. When taxiing the taxi light is on too. The strobes are on any time the aircraft is on an active runway or in flight. We also turn on all exterior lights (landing, taxi, recognition) below 10,000.

These are pretty standard rules but may vary according to individual companies' Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). Our SOP states we do this day or night.
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bok269
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 11:40 am

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 9):
.... cockpits and nautical style uniforms.

And the Captain/FO/SO is a remnant from the seaplane days. Don't forget the galley as well.

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 6):
But don't mast lights also blink?

Im pretty sure they are just constant, but I could be wrong.

Quoting KELPkid (Reply 7):

That might be part of it, but the fact that it's called the "Anticollision" beacon should tell you it's real purpose in life

I was thinking that if my hypothesis was correct, it would help avoid collision. lets say you have two planes coming at eachother. Maybe one plane sees another plane as only one fixed point on thehorizon. They may mistake it for a star or a building (bare with me). The flashing light would allow them to see that it is a plane. That may be a bit of a stretch, but that was my train of thought.

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 8):
I was once sitting up front on a ground stop when a passenger stuck his head in the cockpit and looked around. Spotting the rotating beacon switch (labeled ANTICOLLISION) he said: "Dont forget that switch when we take off!" Sensing that he was okay with stuff like this I replied that it was more of a postulate than a guarantee.

Amazing that some pax simply think they have to tell the pilots that. It reminded me of a story I was reading on another site where a pax had the nerve to tell a Captain that he was going to report him to the FAA because his watch told him they spent the entire flight at 8000 feet and they were going faster than 250 knots. The Captain directed him to the FAA examiner who was riding in the jumpseat during the flight.
"Reality is wrong, dreams are for real." -Tupac
 
pilotpip
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 12:02 pm

Quoting Bok269 (Reply 11):

Amazing that some pax simply think they have to tell the pilots that. It reminded me of a story I was reading on another site where a pax had the nerve to tell a Captain that he was going to report him to the FAA because his watch told him they spent the entire flight at 8000 feet and they were going faster than 250 knots. The Captain directed him to the FAA examiner who was riding in the jumpseat during the flight.

Thank God we have that door!
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Starlionblue
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 1:11 pm

Quoting Bok269 (Reply 11):
It reminded me of a story I was reading on another site where a pax had the nerve to tell a Captain that he was going to report him to the FAA because his watch told him they spent the entire flight at 8000 feet and they were going faster than 250 knots. The Captain directed him to the FAA examiner who was riding in the jumpseat during the flight.

Guess the pressurization system was working then.  Wink
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KELPkid
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 1:12 pm

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 6):
Quoting SlamClick (Reply 3):
Red - port
Green - starboard
White - aft

All come from ships. Been that way for a very long time.

Indeed. Just like knots and pilots and captains and fathoms (err... not that one) and pursers and stewards/stewardesses and first officers and engineers and navigators and cruise and sink and...

And yet, in a plane, it's the lav or the can, and not the head
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57AZ
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 3:02 pm

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 6):
Intersting idea. But don't mast lights also blink?

They do not. Mast head lights are required to be fixed white lights. The only ships that were routinely fitted with flashing lamps on their masts were the lightships.
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tdscanuck
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 3:19 pm

Quoting Bok269 (Reply 11):
Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 6):
But don't mast lights also blink?

Im pretty sure they are just constant, but I could be wrong.

When you said "mast" I thought of radio towers, not ship masts. As I recall, radio towers have a fixed red light at the tip and flashing reds along the length.

Tom.
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 5:09 pm

Quoting Pilotpip (Reply 10):
The red flashing beacons are on any time the engines are turning or the plane is being moved, under its own power or towed.

During Mx we use it if we want no one around the Aircraft.eg during a Grd pressurisation check.

regds
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Starlionblue
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Tue Aug 28, 2007 8:31 pm

Quoting 57AZ (Reply 15):
Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 6):
Intersting idea. But don't mast lights also blink?

They do not. Mast head lights are required to be fixed white lights. The only ships that were routinely fitted with flashing lamps on their masts were the lightships.

Sorry I meant radio towers. I am pretty sure radio tower lights blink in Sweden. But I may be wrong.
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britjap
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 12:27 am

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 3):
Red - port
Green - starboard
White - aft

All come from ships. Been that way for a very long time.

This is true but I believe that the difference is that on ships, starboard is blue and not green.
 
pizzaandplanes
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 12:50 am

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 18):

Sorry I meant radio towers. I am pretty sure radio tower lights blink in Sweden. But I may be wrong.

All tall buildings in the NYC area have blinking red lights at their highest points because the law requires it. Therefore, the only way you could tell the difference is by the starboard and aft lights on a plane.
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KELPkid
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 2:18 am

Quoting Pizzaandplanes (Reply 20):
All tall buildings in the NYC area have blinking red lights at their highest points because the law requires it. Therefore, the only way you could tell the difference is by the starboard and aft lights on a plane.

However, aircraft position lights follow nautical tradition (i.e. boats have the same lighting system), which is at least a century older...  Wink
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SlamClick
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 2:30 am

Quoting BritJap (Reply 19):
starboard is blue and not green

Absolutely not. Google it.
Green - starboard.
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Starlionblue
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 2:54 am

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 22):
Quoting BritJap (Reply 19):
starboard is blue and not green

Absolutely not. Google it.
Green - starboard.

I'm going to go with Captain Click on this one. Green on ships and planes. See here: http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/electronics/q0263.shtml. BTW the diagram on that page is quite useful for visualizing the various lights and their effects.

[Edited 2007-08-28 19:56:32]
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SlamClick
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 3:07 am

Quoting BritJap (Reply 19):
starboard is blue

This website is kinda clever:
http://fmg-www.cs.ucla.edu/geoff/mnemonics.html
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MD11Engineer
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 3:32 am

Quoting Bok269 (Reply 11):
Don't forget the galley as well.

Try calling the hosties galley slaves then!  Wink

Jan
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SlamClick
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 3:41 am

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 25):
galley slaves

The ex-flight attendant I am married to finds "scullery maids" offensive enough.
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don81603
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 6:02 am

Quoting BritJap (Reply 19):
This is true but I believe that the difference is that on ships, starboard is blue and not green

They were green when I was in the navy. Also, the green light must be visible from dead ahead, to 135 degrees to the right. the red must be visible from dead ahead to 135 degrees to the left, and the white light must be visible from all directions.

So if you see a ship coming at you showing all 3 lights, best to alter course to starboard, as he's coming right at you. If you only see the red and white, he'll pass to your portside (left)

On a related note, do the landing lights really assist a pilot in landing? What can you really see in them on approach?

[Edited 2007-08-28 23:03:11]
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Starlionblue
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:45 am

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 26):
The ex-flight attendant I am married to finds "scullery maids" offensive enough.

Lol. She probably doesn't like it because it's not really a naval term.  Wink Perhaps she would prefer "wench"?

Quoting Don81603 (Reply 27):
On a related note, do the landing lights really assist a pilot in landing? What can you really see in them on approach?

The driving rain?  Wink
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SlamClick
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:53 am

Quoting Don81603 (Reply 27):
They were green when I was in the navy. Also, the green light must be visible from dead ahead, to 135 degrees to the right. the red must be visible from dead ahead to 135 degrees to the left, and the white light must be visible from all directions.

I believe that the omnivisible white is a relatively recent change, last hundred years or so, and apllicable to power vessels only. I could be wrong about that.

I think the original specification was:

From the bow, 12 points to larboard (port) - red.
From the bow, 12 points to starboard - green
Centered about the stern, 16 points - white.

A point being the result of boxing the compass - 1/32 of a circle.
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LASoctoberB6
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:16 am

what are the lights on the wings (halfway to the wingtips) on the A320 for?
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flyf15
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 3:29 pm

The CRJ has 27 external lights...

4 Landing lights (one each wing root, 2 in the nose)
2 Taxi lights (one each wing root)
2 Strobe lights (one each wing tip)
2 Red beacons (one top, one bottom fuselage)
6 Nav lights (2 red left wingtip, 2 green right wingtip, one white on tailcone, one white on rear tip of tail)
2 Wing inspection lights (one each fuselage side at wing leading edge)
8 Emergency lights (on each side of fuselage - one rear of wing, two just forward of wing, one by forward door)
1 Cargo loading light (bottom side of left engine pylon)

Hopefully I didn't miss any. For takeoff and landing, we have them all on except for the cargo loading and emergency lights. So, 18 lights on. Not too shabby.  Smile

[Edited 2007-08-29 08:32:22]
 
flyf15
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 3:37 pm

Quoting Don81603 (Reply 27):
On a related note, do the landing lights really assist a pilot in landing? What can you really see in them on approach?

Until you're about in your flare, they don't really do much for you. Until then, they are just there to make you as visible as possible to everyone around. They actually can be a hamper if you are flying in really thick IMC or snow. Just like driving your car with the highbeams on in fog. It is procedure at our airline to, if necessary, turn off the landing lights to increase our ability to see the runway / approach lighting system.
 
tdscanuck
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 5:04 pm

Quoting Don81603 (Reply 27):
On a related note, do the landing lights really assist a pilot in landing? What can you really see in them on approach?

The ground. There are known issues with depth perception on runway lights in the dark.

Tom.
 
57AZ
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 6:48 pm

Basically, on a ship/vessel all lights are fixed-non flashing. The only exception I can think of are submarines that are traveling on the surface. In addition to the normal running lights, they also display a flashing amber light visable from 360 degrees. The reasoning is that minus the flashing amber light, their running lights might be mistaken for a smaller, more manueverable vessel. The reason that amber was selected is that it is not used in any other application regarding the navigation of ships. Some fixed aids to navigation use red or green sectors, most notably range lights or lighthouses. General convention has it that if you are in a red sector heading towards the aid, there are dangerous obstructions (rocks, wrecks, etc.) and the helmsman should turn the vessel so that it heads out of that sector.
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Starlionblue
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 10:00 pm

Quoting LASOctoberB6 (Reply 30):
what are the lights on the wings (halfway to the wingtips) on the A320 for?

Pointing forward? Landing lights?
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
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SEPilot
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RE: Lights On Planes...?

Wed Aug 29, 2007 10:16 pm

Quoting KELPkid (Reply 4):
Required by law:

Actually, I believe that no lights are required by law if the aircraft does not have an electrical system, which I think is still legal. Of course it is not allowed to fly at night then.

Quoting Bok269 (Reply 5):
Is the purpose of the beacons so that pilots don't mistake them for fixed points (buildings, stars, etc.)?

This was changed during WWII at the insistence of the pilot's union. Before then they had fixed lights, and pilots complained that they often mistook them for stars.
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