Need For Aircraft Lighting
Lighting in an aircraft is another very important parameter that contributes to the safety of the aircraft. If you are driving your car at night without any lights on a dark road ,there is a risk factor involved no matter how skilled a driver you might be.The same applies in aviation, pilots are taught emergency procedures for example a “lights out” landing that is landing without lights during their training in case a need arises for them to deal with it.
Hence it becomes incredibly important for us as aviators to understand the lights installed in our aircraft, the positioning of lights around the plane, their appropriate time of use and the most important that is what if they stop working?. In this post well be looking at the lights installed in an Airbus 320 as I am familiar with the aircraft but most lights in any aircraft always remain the same as a need for uniformity.
Types of Lights Installed
- STROBE LIGHT
- NAVIGATION LIGHT
- LOGO LIGHT
- WING LIGHT
- BEACON LIGHT
- TAXI LIGHT
- TAKE OFF LIGHT
- RUNWAY TURN OFF LIGHT
- LANDING LIGHTS
- The strobe lights are three synchronized flashing lights that are located one on each wing and below the tail cone.
- The strobe lights are very bright and flashy and are basically used for identification in the sky.
- They are switched ON only when aligned with the runway for take off and switched OFF after exiting the runway at the destination aerodrome.
- The strobe lights are not used during taxi as it disrupts the pilots front view if there is an aircraft ahead of him with its strobe lights ON.
- In the Airbus 320, there is an AUTO position that enables the strobe lights to be OFF when the landing gear is compressed. This means that if the switch is in the AUTO position, the strobe lights would come ON once airborne and go OFF after landing.
- Navigation Lights are a compulsion for night flying.
- They are also known as position lights as they do not really help pilots in navigation but help determine the relative position of another aircraft in the air.
- The navigation lights consists of a steady green light on the right side/ starboard side of the wing and a steady red light on the left side/port side of the wing and a steady white light on the tail of the aircraft.
- To help remember this, I was taught port wine is red in color.It means that red color light on the left/port side .
- To make sure these lights are visible through all directions on the ground and in flight, each light covers a certain angle to be visible according to the ICAO annex 6 that is “OPERATIONS OF AIRCRAFT”. The coverage angles are:
- A red light projected above and below the horizontal plane on the left side so that it covers 110 degrees.
- A green light projected above and below the horizontal plane on the right side so that it covers 110 degrees.
- A white light projected above and below the horizontal plane rearward so that it covers an angle of 140 degrees.
- Therefore if you are flying and you see a steady white light ahead of you, it would mean that you are looking at the tail of another aircraft.
- The navigation lights help us determining the right of way as well.
- Looking at figure A below, aircraft A can observe the can view the red light coming from the port side of aircraft B. This helps the pilot of aircraft A to understand that aircraft B has the right of way and it has to stop until clear of the aircraft B .
- Logo lights are generally mounted on the upper surface of the horizontal stabilizer and are used for company branding purposes as the lights point towards the company logo painted on the tail fin.
- However, the main purpose for the logo lights as all other lights is safety.
- For example, when an aircraft is on approach, it becomes easier for the aircraft at the holding point to identify the aircraft with the logo light as it gives a 90 degree view.
- In the Airbus 320, the logo light is switched on with the navigational light and there is no separate switch for it.
- Wing lights are beam lights fitted on each side of the fuselage and provide lighting on the wing leading edges and on engine air intake.
- The main purpose of these lights are to help flight crew, cabin crew and ground personnel detect ice accretion.
- The wing lights are also to help detect wing or engine damage and are specially helpful during night operations because of their high beam.
- Beacon lights also known as anti collision lights are pulsating red lights fitted on the top and bottom of the fuselage.
- The beacon lights in the Airbus 320 are to be switched ON before the engine is started and therefore is included in the before start checklist.
- Based on point number 2, it becomes clear that the beacon light also makes the ground personnel aware that the engine is about to be started and the aircraft is ready for push back.
- The beacon lights are then switched OFF after the engines have been shut down after landing.
- An anti collision is to fitted in an aircraft during night operation to attract attention.
- Taxi light is a bright white light connected to the nose gear strut and goes off automatically once the landing gear is retracted.
- As the name suggest, it helps improve the visibility for pilots while taxying and is generally turned ON once the taxi clearance is obtained from ATC.
- In the Airbus 320, there is a nose switch that consist of a taxi and takeoff light instead of separate ones but to only make sure the taxi light is ON the toggle switch can be placed to the taxi position as shown below.
TAKE OFF LIGHT
- The take off light is connected to the nose strut gear and goes off automatically once the landing gear is retracted and is similar to the taxi light but has a wider beam than the taxi light.
- The take off light is switched ON just as we line up on the runway and as mentioned above the take off light will go off once the landing gear is up, it is necessary to place the nose switch to the OFF position manually.
RUNWAY TURN OFF LIGHTS
- The runway turn off lights are placed just below the taxi and take off lights on the nose strut gear.
- The runway turn off lights point slightly left and right in comparison to the taxi and take off lights as they assist the pilots during turns on taxiways and light up the taxiway and runway edges.
- The runway turn off lights are turned ON before taxying and turned OFF just after take off , similar to the taxi lights.
- Landing lights are high intensity lights that illuminate the runway surface for take off and landing.
- These lights can be mounted on the wing, fuselage on landing gear strut. In the Airbus 320, the landing lights are mounted in the leading edge of the wing and hence they extend and retract in the wing.
- The lights control panel doe not have an on and off switch for landing lights.Instead it has an three position switch consisting of extend, retract and off.
- The landing lights are extended as soon as possible the take off clearance is obtained and retracted at a certain altitude for example 10,000 ft.Similarly, on arrival the landing lights are extended again at 10,000 ft and retracted immediately after landing.
- During night operations, it is necessary that your aircraft is installed with one landing light.
UN SERVICEABLE LIGHTING
- If there is a light that is not operating before take off, you need to check the minimum equipment list to check if the aircraft is safe to take off without the lights not available.
- However, there are redundancies to this as well as if your aircraft has 2 navigation light systems then if one fails the other one can be used for operation.
FACT OF THE WEEK: KLM, The Royal Air Transport Company, was founded on October 7, 1909. It is the oldest airline in the world and the oldest still flying under its name. Although the first flight didn’t take to the skies until May 1920, KLM has been a major part of the international airline landscape.Throughout its nearly hundred years of existence, KLM’s commitment to innovation has been constant.This doesn’t just apply to its fleet either. The airline has also proved pioneering with its use of social media, introducing the first social media-driven flight schedule.
This is it for this weeks post.I hope you liked it and gained some knowledge out of the post. If you did please don’t forget to share it with your fellow aviators. Please feel free to share your views and any advice or recommendations on topics you would like to read. Until next week, stay safe and stay healthy.
YOUR CO PILOT