Strobe lights are much brighter and easier to see than beacon lights while in flight—it’s their function. Beacon lights are useful on the ground to indicate engines are running, but what is their use in the air? Strobe and navigation lights do a better job at establishing visibility and orientating other aircraft, while beacon lights are harder to see.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Av.SE! $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 1:16

1 Answer 1


Beacons pre-date both LED and xenon strobes. A number of modern aircraft have been certified without beacons because their strobe systems meet the angle-of-view requirements both vertically and horizontally without needing a beacon. Cirrus aircraft, for instance, do not have beacons.

But the FAA position for anti-collision lighting has been "whatever anti-collision lighting the airplane was certified with, has to work and has to be on at night" unless there's a reason (such as precipitation blinding) that it shouldn't be. So technically a plane cannot be flown if the beacon is inop even if the strobes meet the certification requirement, or even if you aircraft was certificated prior to the lighting rule changes. A Legal Interpretation Letter from the FAA formalizes that even if your aircraft doesn't require them, if you do have them, they do have to work. AOPA Legal did a write up on this a few years ago as a result of the letter. AOPA Article

If your aircraft came with a factory beacon, it is very likely because either:

  1. strobes were either added after-market, or;
  2. the factory strobes did not meet the angle of visibility requirements at the time of certification.
  • $\begingroup$ Do Cirruses only have wingtip lights, no tail light? I know smaller planes that do, didn't know if that was true for Cirri. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 5:10
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    $\begingroup$ @tedder42 Correct. The wingtip lights units protrude from the wingtip enough that they meet the angular visibility requirements for certification. $\endgroup$
    – Max R
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 16:06

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