Are landing lights worthwhile?

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Battson

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Hey homebuilders,

So it's come time for me to decide about landing lights. The heart of my question is, are they actually useful for a VFR pilot who's landing in poor light conditions (twilight), in case a VFR pilot gets caught out later than planned?

We've postponed the idea of making an IFR capable Bearhawk. Most of our flying is fair weather and well inside daylight hours, or underneath bad weather in daylight.... But I wonder if landing lights might be worth it for that one time when you get caught out by (insert unexpected factor here) and are forced to land later in the day, during twilight or God forbit after dark. I dont really have any experience of that kind of thing, so I wondered if anyone how does could chip-in with 2c?

Obviously the cons of "just installing them anyway" are additional cost, more weight, increased complexity, and possibly weatherproofness issues longer term (would need to cut into the leading edge to install them, no room in the cowl). Also access is limited around the leading edge for maintenance.

We dont expect to install any strobes / navigation lights at first. We might come back later and put combined units in the wing tips, if we decide we want them.
 

autoreply

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Big problem is that your eyes adapt to where you look at. Looking at what the landing light illuminates reduces visibility in other area. Very irritating when a car illuminates part of the runway. We always had last landing at 15 minutes past sunset. Still fine to land safely when completely cloudy and you've got a few minutes to adapt your eyes.

A big no-no I'd say from my experience and I would always leave them out, unless it's too dark to see anything. As for visibility and mid-airs, strobes draw a lot more attention.
 

Head in the clouds

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I second autoreply on this.

I had a situation some years ago where I was delayed until after last light waiting for a pax on a remote beach. This was a Jetranger but the outcome is relevant. We flew across a peninsular to our overnight accommodation and it was dark but I could just see enough on finals approaching the large unlit runway. I approached to the threshold to be sure of no obstacles then hover-taxied to the hangars, it was about 800m. Halfway I decided to use the landing lights because cattle, horses, roos often just stand there, even with the noise. I was instantly blinded and then could only see where the lights shone and with no depth perception so hovering was a very iffy affair. I'd not use lights again even if I had them. Worse still was that the landing lights brought the panel lights on also...
 

Dana

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I haven't flown at night in years, but when I was learning to fly I landed with and without landing lights on lighted runways and didn't see the need for them. If you expect to land after sunset on unlighted runways, though, I can see the advantage.

-Dana

I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
 

Kyle Boatright

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They are very helpful in my opinion. Good lighting helps you verify that no critters
are on the runway and also helps in both the landing and taxi phases.
 

Toobuilder

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Landing lights are very effective at anti collision warning... Much more effective than strobes in daylight. The wig wag function also significantly extends bulb life. As for their utility for illuminating the runway, not so much in my experience.
 

Battson

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Wow - thanks for all the input!
Sounds like my train of thought was off track, with respect to using landing lights for landing in energyency situations.

I am a big fan of "see and be seen", and I agree that wig-wag is a real winner in that respect. Although only in the landing phase I think; I dont generally fly around with landing lights on unless I know unseen traffic is approaching - but I'd rather deal with that situation differently in future......

I think I'll address "see and be seen" with lights installed in the wing tips or landing lights inside the last wing rib at a later stage after first-flight; if we decide we need them.
 

skeeter_ca

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So what about late nite flying. Alot of people do fly at night. It would seem like leaving late in the day from your vacation spot and arriving at your home airport well after dark would need landing lights especially on a dark night. Flying under clouds can get pretty dark, can't it?

skeeter
 

fredoyster

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Monterey Bay, CA
So what about late nite flying. Alot of people do fly at night. It would seem like leaving late in the day from your vacation spot and arriving at your home airport well after dark would need landing lights especially on a dark night. Flying under clouds can get pretty dark, can't it?

skeeter
Have you flown much at night? Most of my time is in singles (Grumman, Mooney) that had only a single landing light, so quite often I went to turn it on and it wasn't there, so... lots of practice landing without lights. The only time you really *need* a landing light is when the runway has only reflectors -- but there are plenty of those.

Today with LED landing lights though there really isn't any reason not to have them.
 

Toobuilder

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...I am a big fan of "see and be seen", and I agree that wig-wag is a real winner in that respect. Although only in the landing phase I think; I dont generally fly around with landing lights on unless I know unseen traffic is approaching - but I'd rather deal with that situation differently in future...

I used to think like that, until a buddy got 2000 hours of bulb life with wig wags... Now mine are on at all times as well. Very cheap insurance.
 

SVSUSteve

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I used to think like that, until a buddy got 2000 hours of bulb life with wig wags... Now mine are on at all times as well. Very cheap insurance.
I believe some of the LED options have even higher service lives.
 

Grelly

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I have always considered landing lights to be more about being seen than to see with. Particularly by Tower on initial contact. I certainly can't remember flying a single aircraft with landing lights powerful enough to illuminate the runway at a even a short distance. Of course, lights with more power and less consumption are available now, but that introduces greater opportunities to destroy a fellow pilots' night vision.

You mention installing it/them in the wing. From my experience, just as many aircraft install a landing light in the nose under the engine. Greater risk of stone chip damage, but I feel it has a greater chance of providing useful illumination in that location. Also shorter wiring runs, less chance of compromising the strength of the wing, etc, etc. And it is a decision that is easier to reverse if you don't like it.

Just my 2c.

Grelly
 

Kyle Boatright

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I have always considered landing lights to be more about being seen than to see with. Particularly by Tower on initial contact. I certainly can't remember flying a single aircraft with landing lights powerful enough to illuminate the runway at a even a short distance. Of course, lights with more power and less consumption are available now,

Grelly
Newer technology lights are a game changer. I have HID lights in the RV, one narrow beam, one wide beam. They provide an amazing amount of light and really do help with a dark runway.
 

bmcj

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Under normal circumstances, you can land without a landing light. Under abnormal circumstances, they can help show obstacles on a runway where there is little ambient light. They can also show other things such as when I used them to identify and steer around trees during a no moon night emergency.

You mentioned twilight, but the transition from twilight to full dark can be quite rapid, and if you are flying at twilight, chances are you'll eventually be caught out in the dark. Others' comments about being seen and about reduced night vision are quite true, but it's batter to have it and not use it than to need it and not have it. You may even need it for ground taxi.

It also aids in marketability of the plane if the time ever comes to sell it.


A smoke system also works to show position and works in every direction :)
A smoke system also works to get you priority handling by the tower when you tell them "Smoke generator... what smoke generator?" :gig:

Bruce :)
 

Battson

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I believe some of the LED options have even higher service lives.
Some are saying 10,000hrs service with wig-wag. Might take a few years for someone to prove them wrong...


With regards to "nice to have even if you dont use them".
We are going down the STOL route, so aiming to save weight, cost, and complexity whenever we can. Setting out to cheat gravity, nothing else offers as big a performance payback.

Our air intake filter and alternative air valve etc take up all the room in the nose bowl, so it'd be the wing or nowhere.
 

Topaz

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My power training was the same as others here - "Landing" lights are most useful for enhancing the visibility of your own airplane (anti-collision) and for taxiing. In fact, since both types I trained in for power (C-152 and Tomahawk) had the landing light in the cowl underneath the spinner, we really only used them for taxiing, if at all. The light tended to reflect off the spinning prop and make some aspects of visibility worse, rather than better. On the ground, taxiing, you're going slowly enough that it was less of an issue and better than taxiing with no lights at all. In the air, having the lights on just made visibility forward a lot worse. So if you're going to do them, put 'em out on the wingtip or some other location where even the side-scatter can't reflect off the prop back into your eyes.
 
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