FAA ACS Knowledge Test Code: PA.XI.A.K4

  Night Flight and Aircraft Lights
                      Gold Seal Online Ground School
 
Aircraft are marked with specific types of lights for night operation. There are three position lights, also called navigation lights. There may also be a beacon or strobe anticollision light on the top of the vertical stabilizer. These are placed so that other pilots can determine the relative motion of target aircraft in an otherwise black sky.

There may be other lights on an aircraft but the postion lights and anticollision lights are ones that will be specifically mentioned in your written and oral exams.

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For night operations, position (aka navigation) lights are required and must be turned on. They consist of a green light on the airplane's right wingtip, a red light on its left wingtip, and a white light on the rear (usually on either the tailcone or the top

trailing edge of the vertical stabilizer). Position lights aren't required for daytime operations.

Most airplanes also have an flashing anticollision light on the top of the vertical stabilizer. It is colored either red or white. Also known as a "beacon", it should be turned on anytime an aircraft's engine is running - day or night.

FAR 91.209 - Aircraft lights at night.

No person may:
(a) During the period from sunset to sunrise (or, in Alaska, during the period a prominent unlighted object cannot be seen from a distance of 3 statute miles or the sun is more than 6 degrees below the horizon)--
   (1) Operate an aircraft unless it has lighted position lights;
   (2) Park or move an aircraft in, or in dangerous proximity to, a night flight operations area of an airport unless the aircraft--
        (i) Is clearly illuminated;
        (ii) Has lighted position lights; or
        (iii) is in an area that is marked by obstruction lights;
   (3) Anchor an aircraft unless the aircraft--
        (i) Has lighted anchor lights; or
        (ii) Is in an area where anchor lights are not required on vessels; or
(b) Operate an aircraft that is equipped with an anticollision light system, unless it has lighted anticollision lights. However, the anticollision lights need not be lighted when the pilot-in-command determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to turn the lights off.

Questions on the Private Pilot Knowledge Test have traditionally focused mainly on the position lights. But it's really no more trouble to cover all the bases by also learning about the anticollision light system. Remember: the navigation/position lights are required for night operation; sunset to sunrise. The anticollision light is not required, but if one exists, it must also be turned on at night (and should be turned on in the daytime, too).

Below are four sample questions from the Knowledge Test.

Except in Alaska, during what time period should lighted position lights be displayed on an aircraft?
    
Answer: Sunset to sunrise.

During a night flight, you observe a steady red light and a flashing red light ahead and at the same altitude. What is the general direction of movement of the other aircraft?
    
Answer: The other aircraft is crossing to the left.
    
(Note: the flashing red light is the anticollision light. It can be either flashing red or flashing white)

During a night flight, you observe a steady white light and a flashing red light ahead and at the same altitude. What is the general direction of movement of the other aircraft?
    
Answer: The other aircraft is flying away from you.

During a night flight, you observe steady red and green lights ahead and at the same altitude. What is the general direction of movement of the other aircraft?
    
Answer: The other aircraft is approaching head-on.                               


Here's the Trick:

The most important relative position of a target aircraft is straight ahead and moving toward you! Evasive action should be taken without delay. To remember what combination of lights indicate this dangerous situation, think "R" for "red" and "right". The red position light will be seen on YOUR right side and green on YOUR left side.
 

Reading is all well and good. But there's nothing better than seeing what things really look like. Click the buttons below to see how the aircraft lighting appears based on the target airplane's position.

 

 

 

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