Pilot's tip of the week

Keeping the Lights On


Subscriber question:

"The other night I was in the landing flare and the runway lights went off without warning. I turned them back on right away by keying the mic, but I don’t want this to ever happen again. What can I do? " — Jan L.


“The airport lights should stay on for at least 15 minutes after you turn them on from the air. That’s enough for most airplanes to turn them on while still 10 miles out and have enough time to arrive, land, and taxi in before they go off. However, if you’re flying an Aeronca Champ into a headwind, they might time out on you. More common is arriving to find them on because someone before you activated them. Then you start your downwind with only a minute left on the timer and the rest is fate.

Therefore, a good habit is to reset the timer on the downwind by keying the mic enough to change the brightness of the lights. This is helpful both because they won’t time out, and because you probably don’t need (or want) full brightness just to land VFR. If you’re doing night pattern work, reset them after every few downwinds. If you’re shooting an instrument approach, make a habit of turning them up to full intensity (usually seven clicks of the mic) after you cross the final approach fix inbound. Be prepared to turn them back down a bit if you break out into excellent visibility.”

Do you ever practice landing at night without a landing light and/or runway lights?

Get the Pilot’s Tip of the Week

Sign up here to receive tips like this every week along with videos, quizzes and more.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.