Six Types of Aircraft Exterior Lighting

Aircraft exterior lighting plays a crucial role in aviation, enhancing safety, visibility, and communication between aircraft and ground personnel. Overall, these lighting systems are designed to provide clear signals and improve visibility in various flight phases, from takeoff to landing. In this blog post, we will explore six essential types of aircraft exterior lighting, including beacon lights, strobe lights, navigation lights, landing lights, taxi lights, and the aircraft lighting system overall.

Beacon Lights

The beacon light, also known as the aircraft's "rotating beacon," is a distinctive flashing light mounted on top of the aircraft's fuselage or tail. It emits a bright, rotating light that serves as an attention-grabbing signal to other aircraft and ground personnel. Beacon lights are usually activated before the aircraft's engines are started, indicating that the aircraft is in operation.

Strobe Lights

Strobe lights are high-intensity white lights that emit short bursts of light at regular intervals, and they are generally installed on the aircraft's wingtips, tail, and sometimes the fuselage. These powerful lights improve the aircraft's visibility, especially during low light conditions, highlighting the aircraft's position and alerting other pilots of its presence.

Navigation Lights

Navigation lights are a set of red and green lights installed on the aircraft's wingtips. Of the two lights, the red light is positioned on the left (port) wingtip, while the green light is placed on the right (starboard) wingtip. These lights are crucial for aircraft identification and determining the orientation of the aircraft during nighttime or low visibility conditions. Furthermore, they are also essential for maintaining a safe distance between aircraft in flight.

Landing Lights

Landing lights are powerful forward-facing lights that illuminate the aircraft's path during takeoff and landing. In particular, these lights enhance the pilot's visibility of the runway, taxiways, and other aircraft in the vicinity. Typically located on the leading edges of wings or nose of the aircraft, landing lights help pilots identify potential obstacles and ensure a safe ascent or descent.

Taxi Lights

Taxi lights are mounted on the aircraft's nose gear strut or wings and provide illumination for pilots when maneuvering on taxiways, ramps, and aprons. More than that, they enable pilots to navigate safely in low-light or nighttime conditions, enhancing their situational awareness and preventing potential collisions with ground obstacles.

Aircraft Lighting System

In addition to the specific lighting components mentioned above, aircraft are also designed with a comprehensive lighting system. This system includes various lights, such as anti-collision lights, position lights, and wing inspection lights. Anti-collision lights are typically red or white lights that flash simultaneously or alternately, improving the aircraft's visibility to other pilots and ground personnel. Position lights, as discussed earlier, consist of the navigation lights on the wingtips. Lastly, wing inspection lights are used during pre-flight inspections, enabling ground crew members to inspect the aircraft's wings for any damage or debris.


Aircraft exterior lighting is a vital aspect of aviation, ensuring safe operations and enhancing visibility during different phases of flight. Whether it is signaling the presence of an active plane or improving visibility during critical maneuvers, these lighting systems contribute significantly to aviation safety. For this reason, understanding the different types of aircraft exterior lighting is essential for pilots, aviation enthusiasts, and anyone interested in navigating an aircraft.

If your operations require high-grade lighting system parts, connect with the experts at NSN Components. NSN Components is a leading distributor of aviation products that have been sourced from well-known aerospace manufacturers on our Approved Vendor List (AVL). Backed by unparalleled market expertise, we are equipped to offer rapid lead times and unbeatable cost savings on countless in-demand listings. To get started on the procurement, take advantage of our request for quote service or contact us through phone or email; we are available 24/7x365!


September 27, 2022

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