What is the proper position for the landing lights when on the runway in a line up and wait position?


Counter-intuitively, the FAA answer (see chart on page 1-9 and text on page 1-10) is actually, they should be off during the line-up-and-wait phase.

When cleared to ...

“Line up and wait”—when entering the departure runway without takeoff clearance, turn on all exterior lights (except landing lights) to make your aircraft more conspicuous.

Then when takeoff clearance is received, the expectation is that landing lights will be turned on.

The best rationale I've seen for this is so that Tower controllers (and other aircraft) have an immediate visual cue that an aircraft "on the numbers" understands that it has been cleared for takeoff, or not.

Another FAA document, SAFO 11004 (these are "best practice" recommendations, not requirements):

Exterior Lighting:

o Taxi with taxi light on when moving, off when stopped.

o Turn on all exterior lights when crossing any runway.

o If cleared to “Line Up and Wait”, turn on all exterior lights except landing lights.

o When “Cleared for take-off”, turn on all exterior lights, including landing lights

o If you see an aircraft in take-off position on a runway with landing lights ON, that aircraft has most likely received its take-off clearance and will be departing immediately.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is a good answer, except that I would note that the OP's question was "Should landing lights be off?" so I assume from the rest of your answer that you meant "yes, they should be off." $\endgroup$ – reirab Jul 29 '15 at 16:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Excellent catch - fixed! Original answer was "no they should not be on," but given the question phrasing that needs to say "yes they should be off." So much for the usual rule of "let your yes be yes, and let your no be no"! $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Jul 29 '15 at 16:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Note that this is also the only time I'm aware of that the FAA wants you on a runway without every exterior light on the aircraft lit. If you're cleared to taxi across an active runway with "traffic holding in position" verifying the aircraft in position has their landing light off is a good safety check to distinguish between "They're sitting and waiting for me." versus "They misheard, think they're cleared for takeoff, and are going to hit me!" $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Jul 29 '15 at 17:14
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ i wouldn't count on the state of the landing light to mean anything in GA. people have lots of weird practices, like "i don't use the landing light except when its night time and the moon is less than half because it will burn out the bulb, which costs $147.34 to replace." For 121, the lights are standardized. $\endgroup$ – rbp Jul 29 '15 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ My understanding is that this is a recommendation and not a requirement. I personally think that using lights to indicate intentions will only lead to further confusion. If tower wants to know if someone understands a line up and wait call, it should be obvious if the lights are moving. Otherwise, none of this applies during the day anyway because tower can't see the lights to begin with. $\endgroup$ – Rhino Driver Jul 29 '15 at 21:13

I’d have it on for visibility. Since you’re on the runway and pointed forwards, no landing airplane will see it, and no airplane in the pattern will be really close. No airplane taking off will see it because they don’t have a rear view mirror.

It means one less thing to do before taking off, and lets you focus on the remaining checklist items before departing.

I’d turn it on once in position.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Landing lights signal clearance for takeoff. So aircraft on the ground who receive a clearance to cross in front of you may balk if they see you with landing lights on. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Jul 29 '15 at 7:09
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Based on Ralph J's answer quoting FAA docs, it appears that common sense isn't the appropriate procedure in this case. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jul 29 '15 at 13:05

If you intend to use your landing lights, there's no reason they should be off as your aircraft crosses the hold short position. At a minimum it will serve to increase your visibility to other aircraft and service vehicles. Taxi/ landing light courtesy does not apply to aircraft that are on an active runway.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Based on Ralph J's answer quoting FAA docs, it appears that common sense isn't the appropriate procedure in this case. Of course, military procedures may differ. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jul 29 '15 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ @FreeMan yeah, its SOP for us to turn them on crossing the hold short, which personally, I'd the only thing that makes sense. $\endgroup$ – Rhino Driver Jul 29 '15 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ Which is odd, since the military so often seems to avoid common sense! ;) (My son's in the Army, I've gained some experience.) $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jul 29 '15 at 13:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For aircraft which don't have taxi lights you will obviously have your (dual-purpose) landing light on when taking the runway, particularly at airports which don't have runway centerline lights & taxiway lead off lights to guide you. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Jul 29 '15 at 17:18

Let's take this question from a position of logic- arguably you are in the most vulnerable position with traffic approaching from behind and your recommended to sit in the dark? That does not make a lot of sense to me. The landing light would not blind the inbound traffic, but rather cast a gentle light down the runway. I see two benefits from having the light on – The controller would advise the landing traffic that there is an aircraft on the active and waiting, why not make the visibility of said aircraft a little bit easier? Also as previous mentioned the taking off traffic that is one less thing to do. Do your lights camera action when taking the active runway including the landing light


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.