If you’ve been to an airport at night, you’ve probably noticed the array of vivid, sparkling lights as aircraft glide down the tarmac. The beaming lights on the airframe are an assortment of fixtures that each serve a specific purpose to aircraft and air traffic control. A few light assemblies that are universal to every commercial aircraft include anti-collision lights, taxi lights, and landing lights.


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The signs, ground marking and lighting for airport are marked in specific ways that make sense only to those with a trained eye. As a child, being in the passenger seat of your parents’ car, you eventually learn the rules of the road - stay in the lines, green means go, and watch for pedestrians. But being a passenger in an airplane, it’s harder to get a firm grasp of what’s happening at the airport before the plane takes off. Many of us take no notice of what’s going on around them, not even realizing how much work goes into preparing for the flight before passengers even board.


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For some passengers, the scariest thing that could happen when we fly would be to get sucked out of the window of the plane. So, it stands to reason that seeing a hole in the airplane window would scare those people quite a bit. Afterall, aviation is serious business and there’s no way the FAA would allow anything to compromise safety. Right? Fortunately, the FAA confirmed that the small hole located at the bottom of the window is safe. But, what’s it for?


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Aircraft lighting systems, at first glance, seem like the most banal part of an aircraft. However, both the interior and exterior lights are actually very important. Without them, things like landing at night, inspection of icing conditions, safety from midair collision, and pilot and crew operations can be very difficult.


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It’s not hard to imagine why an airplane would have external lights. It should be the same reason that automobiles or marine craft have them, visibility. Indicator lights give information on the vehicle’s position, heading, and status, making it easy for nearby vehicles and personnel to be aware of what’s happening. For airplanes, there are 5 different types of indicator lights: navigation/position lights, strobe lights, a red rotating beacon, taxi & landing lights, and logo lights.


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