Why do airplanes have headlights?

I had a friend over one day who has an intense fear of flying, but a keen interest in technology. He looked at me square in the eye and asked me “Why do planes have headlights? What do they need to see, the sky better at night?”

The short answer is simple: Planes don’t have headlights.

Airplanes that are designed to fly at night have an assortment of lights, and what a normal person (non-flying folks) would consider headlights are actually landing lights. Pilots turn on the landing lights to see the runway better when
coming in for a landing, just to make sure that there isn’t anything or anyone on the runway.
They also turn on the landing lights when taking off for the same reasons.

But landing lights aren’t the only illumination devices on an aircraft. A plane is also equipped with lights on the the tips of either wings. A red light on the left and a green light on the right. Picture this, when flying at night in the distance you see a red light and a green light. You need to know if you are on a crash course with him. Take a look at the Christmas lights and you can quickly know where that plane is going. If you see the red on left and green on right that plane is facing and going the same direction as you. If red is on the right and green is on the left, that plane is going towards you and action should be taken. If you only see one light you can tell if that plane is crossing to your left or to the right.

Other lights that grace the exterior of an aircraft include the rotating beacon on the top of the plane so other planes can see you. Taxi lights that are used for ground maneuvers, and optional lights like for lighting corporate logos and lamps to light the wings at the pilot discretion.

Let me know if you have any questions of your own about flying or General Aviation Airplanes.

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One Response to Why do airplanes have headlights?

  1. jd says:

    i have a question since i saw some kind of boomerang shape or half circle headlights in the sky.. we first thought that it was some kind of a plane but since they don’t use head lights. what type of air craft may need headlights or do you have any input in this type of phenomenon?

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