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What are Aircraft Landing Lights?

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  • Written By: Crystal K. Wilford
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2016
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Aircraft landing lights are exterior lights usually located on the nose or wings of an airplane. These lights emit bright white beams that illuminate the terrain in front of an aircraft, just like headlights on a car. Any aircraft that flies at night is required to have functioning lights to ensure visibility for the pilots, and to permit the aircraft to be seen by other aircraft as they maneuver on the ground.

The location of aircraft landing lights might vary from airplane to airplane. Many larger commercial jets have landing lights located on the nose and on the wings near the body of the airplane. This allows the pilots to see the ground while the airplane is being taxied into the terminal, or along the runway for landing or departure. International agreements require functioning lights for night flying, though some aircraft keep the lights on during the day to ensure they are more noticeable to other aircraft.

Smaller aircraft may have a single light positioned on the nose, often placed in front of the forward landing gear. Usually these aircraft landing lights can be turned on or off manually, and are permanently affixed. Some military aircraft might have landing lights attached to the forward landing gear. This construction can be more efficient because it ensures the aircraft landing lights are automatically visible when the landing gear is lowered, and can provide better aerodynamics for fighter planes that require more speed and maneuverability than commercial or private jets.

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Taxi lights differ from landing lights by the length and width of the beam projected. A taxi light usually illuminates a wider area of terrain directly in front of the nose of the airplane, but does not extend as far in front of the nose as landing lights do. Aircraft landing lights are often used during the day, at night, and when climbing or descending, while the taxi light is generally only used when the aircraft is in motion on the ground.

Many types of airplanes have other lights along the nose, body, and tail. These lights aid ground personnel and other pilots in locating and following the direction of an aircraft's motion. Various beacons and navigational lights are located along the aircraft's body, wings and tail. This allows pilots, ground crews, and other personnel to identify the measurements and general shape of the aircraft. This also helps minimize accidents in areas of poor visibility, and warns observers which way an aircraft may be turning or moving.

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Rotergirl
Post 1

Landing lights also help people not mistake aircraft for UFOs (insert chuckle here). And most of the time, an aircraft has some outside lights on all the time, not just when approaching for landing.

In the 1970s, when people were seeing UFOs under every bush, knowing what landing lights looked like was helpful for a 10 year old who was just sure she was going to see a UFO at some point. Seeing the landing lights made for a positive ID of a plane, not an unknown craft from outer space. I’m sure that has kept many people from reporting strange flying objects to the police.

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