How are airliner tails lighted at night?

February 07, 2017
Photo: Marcus Graff

Have you ever watch airliners landing at night, and noticed that some have their vertical stabilizers brightly lit-up with the airline name or logo visible for quite some distance? You may also notice that these airliners really stand out from other landing aircraft that do not have this feature. Lighted tails on airliners have been seen for the past twenty years or so, and are made possible by what are known as “logo lights” mounted in the tips of the aircraft’s horizontal stabilizers or on their upper rear fuselage, aimed directly at the tail fin at night.

These high-intensity beams serve several valuable purposes. The first is to readily identify the airline, much like a flying billboard to maximize marketing potential in and around the airport. Second is to enhance inflight visibility at low altitudes and in high-density traffic areas near the airport while the aircraft is taking off or on approach at night. Another important function of logo lights is ground safety, making the aircraft readily identifiable from the tower during taxiing, and highly visible to drivers of ground equipment on the ramp and near taxiways in both clear and inclement weather.