The centerline lights for runways and taxiways are to the side of the centerline itself by a few inches. This, of course, is not a problem, but why are the lights positioned that way?

enter image description here (Image: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport by John Murphy)

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    $\begingroup$ great photo of the one and only ATL there, BTW ! $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 22:57

1 Answer 1


The painted line and the lights do not align for a very practical reason: it would be a major pain in the behind to paint over the lights, as each one of them would need to be masked for the painting, and have the masking removed afterwards.

Another reason, as pointed out in the comments by JScarry & Ralph J, is that placing the lights slightly to the side will keep the nosewheel from running over the lights. While the lights are designed to stand this, the constant thumping will put unnecessary strain on the landing gear, crew and the passengers.

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    $\begingroup$ Another reason is that the correct taxi and landing procedure is to have the nosewheel on the centerline. It probably won’t be noticeable in airliners but I can definitely hear and notice when I’m off center and running over the lights. It probably adds wear and tear to the lights if a big jet taxis over them. $\endgroup$
    – JScarry
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, it's noticeable in a 737, too - the nosewheel is just behind the pilots, and hitting all the lights isn't considered ideal for us either. (For a 747, probably not as much.) $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 0:08
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    $\begingroup$ The lights themselves are designed to survive constant beating from big planes, but as stated, for planes, pilots and passengers running over them is not optimal. For the landing gear in particular it causes unnecessary wear. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 6:54
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    $\begingroup$ @RalphJ I remember reading a comment by Terry saying you can even feel going over the lights in a 747. $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 10:41
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    $\begingroup$ @RalphJ as a Terry Fan I would like to add that running over the lights was his time killing hobby, even a competition with his co-pilot. $\endgroup$
    – vasin1987
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 14:57

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