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Why Do Planes Have Headlights? The Answer Will Surprise You!

Aircraft, especially bigger ones, are loaded with lights. You may not realize it, but planes use lights for a number of reasons. To name a few: seeing outside, landing, and avoiding collisions. Let’s look at how useful these lights can be for pilots.

Why Do Planes Have Headlights?

Lights for Seeing Outside

In general, there are two types of lights for this purpose.

The First Type being Taxi lights:

These lights are normally mounted on the nose gear strut or on each wing. Planes use taxi lights for the same reason car’s use headlamps. These lights will light up the taxiway during the nighttime so that they can find the runway. The beoing 767 features two taxi lights on the nose gear that illuminate forward like spotlights. They also feature two taxi lights called runway turnoff lights that are used for turns.

The second type being landing lights:

You can expect to find landing lights somewhere on the wings or under the fuselage. These lights are used for landing and takeoff and are extremely bright. They are so bright that when landing, they need to be careful to not blind people on the ground. These lights will turn on at about 200 feet above the ground.

Lights to Help Avoid Collisions

Similar to vehicles on the roadways at night, we use headlights to avoid collisions and to know where other cars are located. According to Voltron Design Center there are three types for vehicles. Of these types there are HID and Xenon which are best for downroad visibility. Could you imagine driving around in the dark without any of these to see what’s in front of you? In the same way, it’s vital that pilots can see one another in the air and on the ground.

Red on the left and Green on the Right.

Each plane’s wing tips come equipped with these lights. They are illuminated at all hours of the day. The origin of these lights dates back to the 1800s. They were first used on boats, and they are now used on all aircraft. Essentially since these lights are universally placed red on the left and green on the right, it tells us the position of other aircraft and the direction they’re flying based on our orientation.

More Anti-Collision Lights

Nothing can get someone’s attention better than a super bright light. Similar to why boats use lighthouses, planes feature red beacons on the top and bottom of the plane. There are also white strobe lights on the wing tips.

How are all the Lights Controlled?

With a total of 10 switches. All lighting controls are located inside the pilot’s cockpit. The locations of the switches are typically universal.

Why are Landing Lights on?

Landing lights are kept on for several minutes before and after takeoff. The lights are so bright that they work great as anti-collision lights. These lights are turned on so other pilots can see them from miles away in both the day and nighttime. Typically these lights are only ever shut off at cruising altitudes.

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