Lighting the Way: Fact Files!
Planes need to be seen and the easiest way to do this is with navigational lights.
Firstly, planes have what are known as right-of-way lights on each wing – a red light on the left wing and a green light on the right. These lights help pilots determine another aircraft’s direction and who has right-of-way.
Planes also have strobe lights which flash a high-intensity burst of white light to help other pilots recognise the aircraft’s position in low-visibility conditions.
Finally, to assist take-off and landing when it’s dark, planes also have landing lights, like the headlights on a car.
Busy airports can have as many as eighty planes landing and taking off every hour. So it’s important that things run smoothly to keep everyone safe. And to help pilots take off and land safely especially at night or when the weather makes it harder to see what’s on the ground, there’s a whole range of special runway lights.
Different colours are used to help identify where it safe to land – and where it isn’t! In addition, different patterns of lights will help inform pilots where they are in relation to the runway. Runways are edged with white lights and the approach, or the start to the runway (known as the ALS) usually has flashing white lights.
Blue lights are used for the taxiways – they’re the areas between the runways and the terminals, whilst red lights can show obstructions.
Not all airports and airfields use exactly the same combinations of lights but many do. Pilots may not speak the same language as the country they are flying to and so you can see why easy to identify signs are really important!
Watch this episode of Amy’s Aviation in the video above!
Amy Aviation with support from the Royal Aeronautical Society. Click here to find out more.