I was flying with an A320-214 that had big winglets (I think they were called Sharklets). I noticed that the positioning lights were facing forward on the leading edge of the winglet (the "notch" in the picture).

Image of winglet light

I was wondering why the light is placed there, because it seems to be very unoptimal.

Isn't the light mostly blocked when viewed from behind? Why is not not placed at the top of the winglet? Is that even a big concern?


There are three position lights. Red, Green and White. The red and green ones are placed on the wings and should be visible from the front and side up to an angle of ±110 degrees from the longitudinal axis. The white light is usually placed on the tail (or trailing edge of the wings) and should be visible from behind the aircraft, 70 degrees to either side.

Therefore: The red and green position lights on the wings should not even be seen from behind the aircraft, which is why they are positioned like that.

The reason this is done is because the angle on how you approach another aircraft defines who has right of way and who has to avoid the other aircraft.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ah ok, that makes a lot of sense in combination with the right-of-way rules. $\endgroup$ – Jens Jun 10 '19 at 10:06
  • $\begingroup$ This is actually a throw back to nautical navigation. Boat/ship navigation lights are also positioned such that you can only see a red or green unless the other craft is coming almost directly at you. vessels have a white stern light that is required, and a mast light is optional. $\endgroup$ – Rowan Hawkins Jun 1 at 14:54

Position lights are only visible in certain sectors (see image). The red and green lights on the wings are not supposed to be visible from behind.

enter image description here

Image source: Learn to fly

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  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the image, that explains the placement. The other answer provides a bit more detailed reasons, hence why I accepted it. Cheers. $\endgroup$ – Jens Jun 10 '19 at 10:07

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