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Help with identifying craft lights.

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posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 02:27 PM

Could anyone direct me, or advise me on what is what when it comes to the lights we see on aircraft at night? I've looked around the net but it's a bit of a blur to be honest.

I live in the UK btw, not sure if that makes a difference to what lights are used by planes here.

The reason i ask is because my kids love skywatching with me, very much amateur backyard stuff with bino's and the naked eye.

Anyway tonight we were looking at a few stars tonight and an aircraft caught our eye. It was interesting because although it was quite close, i'd say the length of our village away, it was not making any sound.

In a sleepy village like this that is quite unusual. You can hear planes along the flightpath to the nearest airport all the time.

The other thing was the lights. It was as though there were a set of lights, going on and off like a strobe in flashes of three at a time. So it went "Flash flash flash......flash flash flash". They flashed very quickly, almost too difficult to count.

Other planes that have gone over tonight have a flashing light, but just an on/off constant flash.

Anyway, i haven't got a clue what to rule out and what not. So if anyone could give any advice i'd be most grateful. The craft was travelling like a normal plane, and apart from the fact that it circled a couple of times, it's movements were nothing unusual.

I've seen military planes, Hercules aircraft circle our village at night before especialy up near the start of the open forest, but this didn't make the sound that they usualy do.

Don't want to go shouting alien when it's just a plane om route to the airport lol.


[edit on 20/2/09 by CX]

posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 02:42 PM
It shouldn't matter what country you're in as far as aircraft lighting goes. That's uniform throughout the world.

I think that commerical/private airplanes have a red light on one wing and a green one on the other along with one flashing stroblight on the belly. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll get to see an airplanes "headlights" if it's getting ready to land. I think the strobe light does a three flashes then a longer pause pattern. The wing lights are steady. Oh, sometimes comerical airliners have a flashing strobe on the wings, but I think that those may only be seen to the passengers--they fly so high that you probably wouldn't notice a flashing at night.

Military aircraft have all white lights I'm pretty sure.

posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 02:42 PM
red light on the left wingtip, green light on the right wingtip, white light on the tail (and sometimes the rear of the wingtips). Also has white strobe lights and/or a red/white rotating beacon light.

posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 03:06 PM
Ordinary Commercial Aircraft:

Red(left wing) and Green(right wing). (RRR - Red Right Returning)

One on top and another one on the belly. The pilot fires them up when the engines are running in order to avoid someone sucked in and Jet-Blasts.

2 on the wings, sometimes one at the back. Airbus has a double-flashing strobe pointing forwards. All Boenigs just flash once. The strobes are very bright and should be shut off after landing.

Airbus does: Double Strobe followed by Beacon
Boening: Strobe Beacon Strobe Beacon....

[edit on 20-2-2009 by TimeBandit]


posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 03:24 PM
Thank you everyone.

That should stop me thinking we are being invaded every night!


posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 03:25 PM
was there a light in the middle of the craft and where the other "lights" on the tips of the craft? if so you may have been witnessing a gravitational propulsion system at work... can you describe the shape of the craft?? was it triangular?

posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 03:34 PM
Here's some documentation concerning navigation and anti-collision lighting requirements. These are minimum requirements. As has been mentioned, multiple strobes are not uncommon.

[edit on 2/20/2009 by Phage]

posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 03:35 PM
To add to those above, there are a few ive seen where I live here in New Zealand that aren't what youd call conventional (although unsure if their commercial aircraft or not... just that they are Aircraft).

I get alot of Piper(?) planes flying over where I live and often they have two very strong front facing lights (especially when they are facing directly towards you, you can often be easily mistaken when you have a super bright light moving slowly through the sky until finally they turn away and you see the truth) with various beacon or strobe lights attached, its amazing how many of them seem to never turn on their Nav lights (i thought that would be considered illegal?).

Ive also seen on occasion a small aircraft whos pilot only has a single red slow strobe light on its underside, I can tell its an aircraft since when it flies over you can hear its engine (sounds like a small Cessna(sp?) to me) and through binoculars you can see the cabin lights.

Also get quite a few larger national people carriers (dont know what youd call em, since i dont know planes) flying over as well each night and its quite difficult identifying em since it seems every pilot chooses to have various lights on or off... heck I saw one passenger plane with two wing lights, one blinking red in the middle underneath, one white on top, two forward facing head lights on the wings near the body and a light on the tail illuminating the logo. From a good distance seeing a cluster of lights like that makes you give pause.

Kinda hard spotting the possible NON aircraft every night when every second one I see at night makes me go, 'Wow, I havent seen that before' then 5 minutes latter I get to hear the engines and go 'Poo... just a plane'. Slowly learning just whats what.

For me i use the rule if you see a blinking red light... its one of ours. Now if that red blinking lights strobing REAL fast then maybe its not.

posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 03:36 PM

The external lights on aircraft fall into two general categories. The first is navigation lights or beacons that are always illuminated while the aircraft is in operation. A second type includes takeoff and landing lights that are used to improve visibility when the plane is close to or on the ground.

Learn more about aircraft lights and beacons here:

Hope this helps.

posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 03:48 PM
reply to post by CX

Just as in nautical standards, aircraft lighting follows the basics.

Left is red, right is green. There is a white, steady light, aft.

In the....I think, late 1950s, airplanes were required to include what then were called 'rotating beacons'. Much like a Lighthouse, they were stationary lights (under a red lense) with a mirror that rotated, by means of an electric motor, to shine in a 'blinking' fashion to the observor.

In the early Seventies, as strobe lights were invented, those pesky 'rotating beacons', with all the wieght and complexity, were replaced. far more reliable, and lots of excess weight removed.

It was also in the Seventies that white strobe lights were deemed mandatory for airplanes. A flashing red 'beacon' was deemed inadequate, as airspace became more crowded.

Strobes were mandated at the wingtips, at a minimum. Modern jets also have them in the tail.

Here are the rules....'Navigation Lights', as they're called....the two wingtips, and the tail, are required during 'night' operations. At most airlines, they are on all the time, fact, modern jets have at least two light bulbs ini each position, so if one is burned out, you can continue with a maintenance delay.

The 'beacon' is, in modern commercial aviation, to indicate that an engine is running, or that the pilots are preparing to start an engine.

THIS is on our "Before Start' checklist, at the Airlines....usually after the 'Seatbelt' sign is turned on, we turn on the 'beacon', as part of the checklist. Ground crew know, they see the tug hooked up, they see the tug driver is plugged in with his headset...all baggage doors are closed, the JETWAY IS removed....this is the dance of how airlines work, orchestrated day in, day out.

Strobe lights, and flashing red 'beacons', were intended to help in noticing other airplanes.

The 'red/green/white' is for orientation....'is the craft (boat or airplane) coming towards me, or away from me?'

Whew! Lots of the kind bloke who asked the initial question.....

Different airplanes exhibit different 'strobe' flash patterns.

The white strobes are going to be most obvious, since they are so bright.

Not sure which Forum I'm currently on.....but, if you see something in the sky, and it's flashing in any other color than, red, green or white.....say blue or yellow.....then pay attention, get your camcorder.....

BECAUSE....airplanes use red, green and white. Even the Landing Lights are bright white!!!!

Good Hunting!!

posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 03:49 PM
reply to post by ziggystar60

ziggy!!!! I spent a half hour writing my post, and then I see you trumped me!!!!

Love ya!!!!

posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 03:52 PM
reply to post by ziggystar60

BTW....Ziggy's post was vague on the fact that in modern aviation, there are TWO red beacons.

One on the belly, so the ground crew, as I mentioned, would know that an engine was running, or a start was imminent....and one on top of the fuselage.....just for good measure!!!

EDIT for bad typing.....

[edit on 2/20/0909 by weedwhacker]

posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 04:05 PM
reply to post by CX
out of an abundance of caution some pilots will fly with the ground safety lights (taxi and turn) illuminated during cruise flight.

posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 04:11 PM

Originally posted by thefreepatriot
was there a light in the middle of the craft and where the other "lights" on the tips of the craft? if so you may have been witnessing a gravitational propulsion system at work... can you describe the shape of the craft?? was it triangular?

Just b/c there is a light in the middle of the craft dosn't mean anything. May aircraft have rotating beacons on the bottom of the fusualge, towards the middle. Piper Meridian/Matrix for example. Though usually done only on the larger aircraft.

A "gravitational propelsion system", lol So a glider "flies" forward because it is gaining speed by loseing altitue (and on thermals of course)... thats a true grav proplesion system!

So why does your grav propeled vehicle have a central light? Is it a grav generator? why would it light up? Just curious.

posted on Feb, 20 2009 @ 04:29 PM
reply to post by jdub297

jdub.....ermmmm......the 'taxi' light....on the nose gear.....not gonna work, when the gear is retracted.

Funny story....older jets, of course had the 'taxi' light on the nose gear. (Other lights....wing lights, runway turn-off lights, etc....THEY are mounted in the wing, or the fuselage).

Anyway, back to 'taxi' lights. Mounted on the nose gear. Think of them as the 'head lights' in your car, to see at night.

The 'Landing Lights'....very bright, and not used for taxiing....but for Take-off and landing....and, under 10,000 feet, left on, even in daylight hours, as an additional way to 'Be seen'....

Off the original thing I was writing about.....the 'taxi' light, mounted on the nose gear, of coursae has a switch in the cockpit....'On'/'Off'

It's just, in say, early Boeings....pilots might FORGET to turn the darn thing off....once the gear is retracted, the light bulb gets hot, and burns out.

Eventually the manufacturers designed a circuit so that once the gear was retracted, and all of the lights were out SHOWING 'Gear UP', the light, if on, would be extiinguished.....regardless of the switch position in the cockpit....or (Flight Deck....better term).

Minor details, small mistakes.....leaving the taxi light on, will NOT crash an airplane.

But, this is about lights, and how to identify airplanes, based on their lights.

Just to or yellow???? NOT an airplane.

'Nuff said.

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