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The following stories from the December 26, 2008, edition of AOPA ePilot were provided to AOPA members who expressed an interest in the particular subject areas. Any AOPA member can receive information tailored to their areas of interest by updating their preferences online.


Nights and aircraft lights

You’re ready for engine start following a night preflight inspection. A question arises: What aircraft lights should you use, and when should you use them? That was the thrust of a question to AOPA’s Pilot Information Center, and this was the excerpted response: "Whenever the master switch is on, the position (navigation) lights should be illuminated. Prior to engine start, the red beacon lights should be turned on to alert the ground crew and other pilots that the airplane is ready to move. When taxiing, the pilot should turn on the taxi light. However, when not in motion, many pilots turn the taxi light off to make it easier for others to know the aircraft is not moving. Only when cleared onto the runway should strobe lights be turned on. Finally, when cleared for takeoff, every exterior light is turned on for maximum visibility. Because lighting equipment varies in general aviation aircraft, these procedures may need to be modified."


Lighting systems are described in the AOPA Flight Training article "No Dumb Questions." Position lights are the red and green lights installed at wingtips (red on the left, green on the right) and a white tail-mounted or rear-facing light. The anticollision light system "can be either a rotating beacon (usually aviation red) or strobe lights (usually aviation white), or a combination thereof."


General guidance on using lights comes from FAR 91.209. It states that "no person may:
(a) During the period from sunset to sunrise (or, in Alaska, during the period a prominent unlighted object cannot be seen from a distance of 3 statute miles or the sun is more than 6 degrees below the horizon)—

(1) Operate an aircraft unless it has lighted position lights;
(2) Park or move an aircraft in, or in dangerous proximity to, a night flight operations area of an airport unless the aircraft—
(i) Is clearly illuminated;
(ii) Has lighted position lights; or
(iii) is in an area that is marked by obstruction lights."


The regulation has equivalent requirements for seaplanes. Anticollision lights must also be used if installed; however, the rule authorizes pilots to turn them off for safety as elaborated in Chapter 4-3-23 of the Aeronautical Information Manual.


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Note: Products listed have not been evaluated by ePilot editors unless otherwise noted. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors.


Question: I have heard that any pilot operating near the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) needs to get special training. Who needs to complete the training, and where can I get information about the course?



On Feb. 9, 2009, the FAA will require any pilot who operates VFR within 60 nautical miles of the DCA VOR to complete the one-time special security awareness ADIZ training course. Pilots operating on an active IFR flight plan, and flying in IMC, are exempt from the requirement. The course, Navigating the New DC ADIZ, can be found online at the FAA Safety Web site. Once you complete the course, you can print out a certificate of completion. You do not need to carry the certificate with you when you fly.


Got a question for our technical services staff? E-mail to [email protected] or call the Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672. Don't forget the online archive of "Final Exam" questions and answers, searchable by keyword or topic.

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