Every light on an aircraft has its own purpose. They can be broken down into two categories based on what it makes visible, either aircraft or pilot visibility. Lights that improve aircraft visibility are lighting systems that help make the aircraft more visible to other aircraft while in flight. Lights that improve pilot visibility are lighting systems that make it clearer for the pilot to look out the flight deck windows.
Landing lights typically are the brightest lights that are made specifically to enhance visibility during the plane's descent to land. They also are used to illuminate the runway when airports have a lack of lighting, like a large headlight on a car. They are located on the wing root, in the outboard wing, or for helicopters, somewhere on the front fuselage. Taxi lights are located on the nose landing gear of most planes. Essentially a bright white lamp in the front of the plane is used when the aircraft is in motion or on the ground. Taxi lights are used during taxi, takeoff, and landing, making it a very versatile light. These two lighting systems are under the pilot visibility category.
Lights that increase aircraft visibility are mainly used to improve visibility of the aircraft to other planes in flight. Navigation lights come in different colors: Red beacon lights are located on the left/port wing, green on the right/starboard wing, and white light on the tail help outside observers or other pilots determine what direction the observed plane is flying. There are also lights located on the upper and lower fuselage to also help prevent collisions, referred to as beacon lights. Planes also have strobe lights that flash very bright to draw attention to the aircraft while in flight.
Some other less vital external lights include logo lights, which illuminates the respective company the plane is commissioned under. Runway turnoff lights, located on the leading edge of the wing root, are used to light up the runway during taxi and turning off the runway. Wheel well lights are used primarily to assist ground personnel while making pre-flight inspections when airport lighting is low and are located on the nose and main gear wheel wells.
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