I have gone through this post which explained me why there are red lights turned on the plane but I doubt with the color code whether it's only during the environment specific conditions or its indication that it is relaying coordinates?

Every time one thing caught my attention during my flight journey. During the specific time of the day the lights on the wings changed with color.

On one flight it had a white constant blinking. This flight was during the day. The blinking was slow and repeated up to thrice.

enter image description here

On the second flight, there was a blinking green light along with the blinking white light. This blinking was fast so I couldn't get a clearer shot and this is during sunset.

enter image description here

Note:-In the above two images both are of the Airbus A320 Sharklet. I believe it has something to do with tracking and relaying the coordinates to the ATC.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Lights are not used for anything other than increasing visibility and awareness. Nothing to do with tracking or "relaying coordinates". Even if the aircraft did do this, light signals would be a lousy way to communicate the information. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Dec 16, 2014 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon just to be that guy, there are times when you communicate to ATC, or even other aircraft, via light flashes ;) $\endgroup$ Dec 16, 2014 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ @SHAF Of course, you are right, but my comment was more to point out that they are not used for tracking (imagine the equipment that would need) nor for relaying co-ordinates, which would be kind of pointless since if you can see the lights, you already know where the aircraft is. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Dec 18, 2014 at 18:46

1 Answer 1


Every plane has green and white lights on the right (starboard) wing, as in this photo, and red and white on the left (port) wing. These lights are called "navigation lights," and are the same as are used in boating.

The green and red lights are always on, no matter what, and are used to help other aircraft know which direction the aircraft is going, based on whether the other pilot sees red, green or both lights.

The white lights are also on all the time, and flash constantly. These lights are called "anti-collision lights."

enter image description here

(Image Source: Wikipedia)

What you are actually seeing is the green light constantly on, and the white flashing - but because the white is so much brighter and is flashing, it's more apparent than the green (which, especially in the day, is fairly dim)

At night, the green becomes more obvious and the flashing white becomes more visible. The flashing white over-powers the green, which gives an optical illusion that the Green is flashing. The reality is that the Green is always on, and the white is flashing.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The anti-smash lights should be on anytime the engine is running, but strobes do not come on until you are ready to take the active, and nav lights aren't even required during the day in good weather. Light usage varies by organization. $\endgroup$ Dec 16, 2014 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ And by regulations $\endgroup$
    – rbp
    Dec 16, 2014 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ @jon as in the first image being a sharklet tip does it have anything to do with the make/class of wing structure $\endgroup$
    – user285oo6
    Dec 17, 2014 at 10:27
  • $\begingroup$ The sharklet probably affected the optical illusion part, as the lights are in slightly different places and the shape will affect how much of the White you can see $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Dec 17, 2014 at 11:18

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