My father used to work as an air traffic controller, and often I heard mention of a 'running rabbit'.

Obviously, vermin on the runways of airports can be a bad thing, but I don't think he was literally talking about animals.

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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, I've always heard them referred to as "the rabbits" and never the term "running rabbit". $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ Likewise - although I've actually only heard the singular 'rabbit' - I understood that the phrase is a reference to the lure (historically, a live rabbit) used in Greyhound racing. $\endgroup$
    – egid
    Commented Jun 7, 2015 at 19:43

4 Answers 4



The Sequenced Flashing Lights are part of some approach lighting systems and are a row of strobe lights that flash in sequence to direct the pilots eyes to the runway. They are useful in conditions of bad weather, as they quickly catch the eye and help the pilot locate the runway threshold which might otherwise be hidden; however, during normal operations they can actually be distracting. These lights appear to run towards the runway and are often called chasers, the rabbit, or the running rabbit.

Kill the Wabbit

Because these lights are very bright, and often distracting during normal operations in clear weather, it is not uncommon to hear pilots ask the controllers to kill the w/rabbit on their approach. I personally find them overkill, and have heard many other pilots asked them to be turned off as well.

ALS lights from the ground

Photo credit ATG Airports

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    $\begingroup$ I sure as hell hope this is never the view I see while on approach! $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ @MatthewPeters that, indeed, would give whole new meaning to "kill the wabbit" $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ Ha! Yeah, the 'wabbit' would be very dead after that approach. Probably the aircraft and possibly the pilot, too. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 7:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Matthew Peters:Check out American Airlines Flight 1572 on Wikipedia. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 7, 2015 at 22:33

Check out this YouTube video. Between approximate 0:18 and 0:30, you can see a set of strobe lights leading up to the runway. They flash in sequence to make a moving dot that runs up the runway.

That is the "rabbit".

  • $\begingroup$ I'd like to point out that his approach was too high according to the glide slope indicator $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ You can also check this video: youtube.com/watch?v=b-JmZzBl70c $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 8:40
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling: That video is from a flight sim, and is focused on showing the light system, not demonstrating a good landing. $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidWilkins not uncommon for light aircraft to ignore the PAPI and approach more steeply / visually. One instructor told me to ignore it because it guides me way too far into the very long runway (290 meters from the threshold), forcing a longer taxi. $\endgroup$
    – Roman
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ @αCVn: Reminds me of most of my landings (or "landings") in Kerbal Space Program... $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 0:31

"Running Rabbit" is a colloquialism. It refers to the sequenced flashing lights that lead up to the runway threshold, which are part of the ALS (Approach Lighting System).

From the wikipedia article linked above:

Sequenced flashing lights are sometimes colloquially called the rabbit or the running rabbit.


Running rabbits can also be a reference to primary targets appearing on a radar scope in a sweeping arc, often caused by radar interference from another radar or other spurious RF.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Source? I've never heard of such a term. $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 19:43

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