Coming or Going?
“Coming or Going? At night or in conditions of poor visibility navigation lights tell you a traffic advisory story in color. All pilots should refresh their memories periodically so that they can immediately determine the flight path of another aircraft by the color and relative position of the navigation lights it displays. The airborne pilot, alone in the cockpit at night, is in no position to start thumbing through a pilot’s handbook to find out whether the red and green lights he sees are going away or coming directly at him. He may have only a few seconds to see, decide and react. How much time would you need? Do you any blind spots in your memory?”
The text above originally appeared in FAA Aviation News January 1970 with similar illustrations to the ones you see below. These illustrations were made by me using Microsoft Flight Simulator and hopefully will help you memorize the sight picture so you can instantly recognize whether aircraft are coming or going. I am also including a couple of illustrations done by artist Robert C. Osborn that pertain to flying at night. These illustrations appeared on the back of FAA Aviation News September 1973, September 1975 and October 1976.
One more note: Do you know who the father of aircraft navigational lights is? Warren G. Grimes. I’m proud to say he was born right here in Montgomery County Ohio just a few miles from where I currently live and the Wright Brothers lived and worked. Grimes Field in Urbana, Ohio (I74) is named after him. It was at this airstrip where his company, Grimes Manufacturing Company, flight tested various aircraft navigation lightning systems on the Flying Lab, a Beech 18 (C-45). If you fly to Grimes field, be sure to stop and take a look at the Grimes Flying Laboratory Museum.