All About Exterior Aircraft Lights

Lighting is a critical part of ensuring an aircraft’s safety in low-visibility conditions, such as night or inclement weather. Numerous regulations placed by international conventions government agencies like the Federal Aviation Authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency dictate their placement, numbers, and brightness.

One of the most critical roles for exterior lights on aircraft is increasing visibility of the aircraft to other pilots while in flight and to ground traffic while maneuvering in an aerodrome. These lights consist of a set of navigation lights placed on the leading edge of the wingtips, red on the left/port wingtip, green on the right/starboard wingtip, and a white light on the aircraft’s tail. Rotating or flashing beacon lights are also installed on the top and bottom of the fuselage, as well as strobes at the trailing edges of the wingtips. While incandescent lightbulbs have been used in the past, modern lights now use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to provide illumination. All navigation lights are turned on before the engines are turned on and remain on until the engines are powered off.

The next category of lights is designed for pilot visibility during pre-flight inspections, taxiing, takeoff, and landing. Wing inspection lights are mounted on the fuselage and facing towards the leading edge and engine pylons and turned on during preflight inspections. While the aircraft taxis to the runway, taxi and runway turnoff lights on the nose landing gear provide illumination and ensure the aircraft has a clear path. During landing, high intensity lights are used to illuminate the runway surface, and make sure other pilots can see the aircraft. These lights can be mounted on the wings or extend and retract from a cavity in the aircraft’s fuselage.

Other types of lights have more specific uses. Commercial airliners will often mount lights facing towards the airline’s logo on the tailfin; these lights are technically optional, but most pilots leave them on for increased visibility of their aircraft. Search and rescue aircraft mount high-intensity searchlights to spot survivors in need of help, and military aircraft make use of formation lights to help facilitate flying in formation during nighttime.

At ASAP Aviation Supplies, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all the exterior lights for the aerospace, civil aviation, and defense industries. We’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at or call us at +1-720-923-2840.


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