Aircraft Lights and When to Use Them

As aircraft are equipped with such a wide array of different lights, it can quickly become difficult to understand which lights serve what purpose and when they should be used. Some of the lights found on aircraft include rotating beacons, anti-collision/strobe lights, position/navigation lights, landing/taxi lights, and logo lights. In this blog, we will discuss the times when pilots are required to use each of these types of lights. The requirements referenced in this blog are those listed by the United States Government’s Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.

Rotating Beacons

There is no published requirement related to the use of rotating beacons. However, the FAA’s Aeronautical Information Manual suggests the use of the rotating beacon any time the aircraft is in operation (whether on ground or in the air). This is so that people on the ground know that the aircraft is in use or the engine is about to be started. Some pilots recommend that you leave the beacon switch on at all times so you don’t forget it, but others argue that it is bad to get in the habit of leaving on switches. Additionally, should there be a fault with your master battery switch, the beacon could end up draining your battery.

Anti-Collision/Strobe Lights

14 CFR 91.209(b) states that any aircraft with an anti-collision light system installed must utilize it at all times, day or night, unless the pilot determines it is unsafe to do so (due to taxiing, fog, etc.). From a practical standpoint, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to use strobe lights prior to take off, as their brightness can impair the vision of other pilots. While on the ground, it is best to leave them off as a courtesy.

Position/Navigation Lights

14 CFR 91.209(a) dictates that all pilots must use their position/navigation lights from sunset to sunrise. There is an exception for pilots in Alaska, where during the summer, it remains light even after the sun has set. This exception states that pilots must use their position lights if they are unable to see an object 3 miles away or if the sun is more than 6 degrees below the horizon.

Landing/Taxi Lights

Like rotating beacons, there are no published requirements regarding the use of landing or taxi lights. Operating at night does require a landing light to be installed, though there are no specific regulations regarding its use. That said, the FAA Aeronautical Information Manual suggests that landing lights are used when taking off, landing, when flying within 10 miles of the airport, or flying below 10,000 feet. The manual also suggests turning on the taxi light only when ready to taxi. This will prevent confusion and indicate to other aircraft that you intend to move.

Logo Lights

There is no requirement for the use of a logo light, but the FAA Aeronautical Information Manual suggests using these lights during taxi to indicate to other pilots and people on the ground that you are moving.

Finally, most pilots will find it beneficial to use LEDs for all the aforementioned lights. Not only are these much brighter than traditional bulbs, they use much less energy and don’t create any heat. While this is an expensive upgrade, costing $300-400 per bulb, it will prove worth it in the long run. If the cost is preventing you from making the change, one option is to upgrade only your most important lights. For example, you could start by getting an LED landing light, as this will be used more than a taxi light. If you’re in need of aircraft lights, ensure you are getting them from a trusted source.

For all types of aircraft anti-collision lights and their associated parts, look no further than ASAP Axis. Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all types of parts for the aerospace, civil aviation, defense, electronics, industrial, and IT hardware markets. Our account managers are 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 sales@asapaxis.com or call us at 1-920-785-6790. Let us show you why we consider ourselves the future of purchasing.


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February 16, 2021

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