Yesterday I was spotting at Barcelona International (LEBL). I noticed that at least two airliners were approaching with their landing lights OFF, just to light them on very short final (about 0.4NM from runway threshold).

I thought landing lights were required to be ON at all times below 10000 feet. Am I wrong? Is there any situation when landing lights are not required below 10000 feet?

Visibility was excellent, I'm going to see if I can find the actual METARs but I would say CAVOK conditions. see the METARs:

LEBL 161630Z 17007KT 140V210 CAVOK 19/11 Q1019 NOSIG
LEBL 161700Z 20007KT 150V230 CAVOK 19/11 Q1019 NOSIG
LEBL 161730Z 22007KT 170V240 CAVOK 19/12 Q1019 NOSIG
LEBL 161800Z 21007KT CAVOK 18/12 Q1019 NOSIG
LEBL 161830Z 20005KT 170V230 CAVOK 18/12 Q1020 NOSIG
LEBL 161900Z 21005KT CAVOK 17/12 Q1020 NOSIG
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ They probably were on, you just couldn't see them being on from your angle. I've never heard of there being a requirement to have landing lights on below a certain altitude anyway. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    May 17, 2016 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD I was few meters off the extended runway centerline (On top of the hill here: goo.gl/maps/hxeXU7pZUts). One of these airliners got LED-like lights and suddenly they were lit. $\endgroup$
    – orique
    May 17, 2016 at 12:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As I said, maybe it was your angle. If the airplane was crabbing away from you would not necessarily see the light $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    May 17, 2016 at 12:35
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ FWIW, standard practice at the two 747 carriers I worked for in the 1990s was to turn the landing lights on descending through 10,000 feet on the arrival, turn them off climbing past 10,000 on departure. However, to the best of my knowledge, at least back then, there was no regulation stating that this was required. It was just a standard operating procedure and was thus in our check lists. $\endgroup$
    – Terry
    May 17, 2016 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ In the US, having landings lights on below 10,000 is "encouraged" by the FAA and I've often heard it's standard practice for airlines as part of their OpSpec (as Terry mentioned). But there's no specific regulation that requires it. I have no idea what the situation is under EASA regulations. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    May 17, 2016 at 17:37

2 Answers 2


It is not an ICAO requirement to operate landing lights whenever you are below 10,000 FT. The mandatory aircraft lights you will see in regulations is strobe lights, nav lights and anti collision beacon lights.

It is standard operating procedure at several airlines to only turn on the landing lights when a landing clearance is received by air traffic control. This is most likely what you have observed. The landing clearance is usually given at very short final, and so crews will turn on the landing lights on very short final (unless you are in FAA territory, where multiple aircraft can be cleared to land on the same runway at the same time ...)


I can't speak for Spanish or other international operations, but in the United States, landing lights are only required for use at night when carrying passengers for hire. It is, however, a common courtesy to use landing lights in or around congested airspace at or below 10,000 feet, day or night, to make it easier for other aircrews to see your aircraft.

This also depends on the configuration of the aircraft. Some aircraft only have landing lights on the retractable landing gear, and, unless the gear is extended, they cannot be used.


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