I live under Chicago's airspace. One evening I saw a plane approaching Chicago with both wingtip lights red and the front landing lights flashing. I've never seen that before, why would that happen?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! Are you completely sure about what you saw? The wingtip lights are required by law to be red and green, but the beacon (anticollision) lights,are usually red too. Is it possible that you were looking at an angle, so that you might have seen one wingtip plus one beacon light? $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ Which part of Chicago was this in? (Can you tell us which airport it was approaching?) $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 0:55

1 Answer 1


You might have been seeing a general aviation aircraft from an orientation similar to the one pictured.


You'd see the left navigation light which would be red.

The rotating beacon would also be red, but if the airplane was positioned like this and the beacon was the rotating, not blinking type, you might just see two mostly constant red lights. Being that it was dark you might mistake the second red light for the navigation light on the other wing.

It is becoming more common on general aviation aircraft to have a pulse option on the landing lights. I flew for a 135 operation for a while under which our contract required this to be installed and operational for all our aircraft.

This seems to be the simplest explanation for what you are describing. If we consider Occam'z Razor it is likely to be what you saw on the occasion you described.

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    $\begingroup$ an orientation similar to the one pictured You mean it was flying in mirror fashion? $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ Or maybe on a Mooney you have to put the tail number on backwards too :D $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ @TomMcW: Well (after a search online) I believe this is to facilitate reading in the rear mirror of the preceding aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ Yea I horizontally flipped the image. Laughed pretty hard at the comments. ;) $\endgroup$
    – ryan1618
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 1:43

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