Each Tuesday, Smart Flight Training will post a sample question that a pilot could expect to see on an FAA Knowledge Test or hear during the oral portion of a checkride. A little known secret to saving money and time during your flight training: PREPARATION! Hopefully Testing Tuesday post will be one small step in helping you live up to your side of learning to fly by being prepared when you meet with your flight instructor, saving you money and time! Good luck on the below question – click the link at the bottom to see the answer and explanation!
During a night flight, you observe a steady white light and a flashing red light ahead and at the same altitude. What is the general direction of movement of the other aircraft?
- The other aircraft is crossing from the right to the left.
- The other aircraft is flying away from you.
- The other aircraft is crossing from the left to the right.
The correct answer is b: The other aircraft is flying away from you.
Requirements for night flight include operable navigation lights, including a steady red wingtip light on the left wing, a steady green wingtip light on the right wing, and a steady white light on the tail. Each wingtip light can be seen from the side and front of the aircraft, but not from behind. The tail light can been seen from either side and behind the plane, but not from in front. Most aircraft also have a flashing beacon, which is generally red, and flashes slowly (not in a strobing fashion, but more like a “blinking” light). The flashing beacon can be seen from most perspectives around the other aircraft.
Knowing the placement of these lights, you can determine the location and general movement of another aircraft based on which lights you are seeing from the other aircraft. This is crucial for traffic avoidance. In this case, we are seeing a steady white light and a flashing red light. The steady white is the navigation light on the tail, and the flashing red is the beacon. Since we are not seeing a steady red or steady green light, we know we are generally behind the other aircraft. So the other airplane is moving away from us.
If the other airplane had been moving from right to left, we would have seen a steady red, blinking red, and steady white light (left wing, beacon, and tail).
If the other aircraft had been moving from left to right, we would have seen a steady green, blinking red, and steady white light (right wing, beacon, and tail).
If you were seeing both red and green steady lights, then the other aircraft is moving generally toward you, and possibly be on a collision course!
So now that we know what general direction the other aircraft is moving, the question remains – why do we care? Because we have to know that information to determine which aircraft has the right of way, and what we must do to comply with the right of way rules…
So leave a comment telling everyone what right of way rule applies, and what the right course of action is, knowing that the other aircraft is flying away from us (assume we are faster than the other plane).
Reference: FAA Airplane Flying Handbook (see page 144 for this question specifically).
As always, I hope this Testing Tuesday question was helpful and thought-provoking! If you have any questions or concerns about this answer (or have a question that you would like to see on an upcoming Testing Tuesday post), contact us and let us know!
Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, Ohio. He likes when google answers his stupid questions because it means he’s not the only one asking google stupid questions.