What is VGLS in Aviation? (Visual Guidance Lighting Systems)

Visual Guidance Lighting Systems (VGLS) play a crucial role in aviation by providing visual reference and guidance to pilots during different phases of flight. These specialized lighting systems consist of a series of lights strategically placed along runways, taxiways, and other airport surfaces to assist pilots with safe navigation, especially in low visibility conditions. VGLS ensures that pilots can accurately perceive and interpret the layout of the airport, helping them to take off, land, and taxi safely.

How do Visual Guidance Lighting Systems Work?

The Visual Guidance Lighting System comprises different types of lights, each serving a specific purpose in ensuring safe operations. Here are the main types of lights used in VGLS:

1. Runway Edge Lights

Runway edge lights are placed along the edges of the runway and help to define the lateral boundaries of the landing surface. These lights are typically white, but they may also include amber lights to indicate temporary runway closures or red lights to indicate the end of the runway.

2. Touchdown Zone Lights

Touchdown zone lights consist of a series of white lights that are typically installed across the runway’s width, a few feet before the runway threshold. The purpose of these lights is to provide pilots with a visual reference for the touchdown point during landing. They help pilots ensure that their aircraft is aligned properly with the runway, enabling a smooth and safe touchdown.

3. Taxiway Lights

Taxiway lights guide pilots as they navigate the airport surface from the runway to the terminal or vice versa. These lights are usually blue and are placed along the edges of the taxiways, as well as in the centerline to provide pilots with clear guidance. Taxiway lights are instrumental in preventing runway incursions and ensuring that aircraft move safely from one location to another.

The Importance of Visual Guidance Lighting Systems in Aviation

Visual Guidance Lighting Systems are essential for aviation safety. They enable pilots to safely operate aircraft during periods of reduced visibility caused by fog, rain, snow, or darkness. These lighting systems greatly enhance the situational awareness of pilots by providing them with clear and easily recognizable visual cues.

Some key benefits of Visual Guidance Lighting Systems include:

1. Enhanced Runway Visibility

VGLS significantly enhances runway visibility by clearly defining the runway edges and touchdown zones. This allows pilots to accurately align their aircraft with the runway, facilitating safe landings. In addition, the lights help pilots maintain spatial orientation and distinguish the runway from surrounding areas, preventing any navigational errors.

2. Improved Taxiway Navigation

Visual Guidance Lighting Systems also greatly improve taxiway navigation. The blue taxiway lights guide pilots along the designated taxi routes, helping them avoid hitting any potential obstructions or inadvertently entering active runways. These lights provide pilots with a clear path from the runway to the terminal, ensuring safe and efficient ground movements.

3. Increased Pilot Confidence

Having a well-designed and properly functioning VGLS enhances pilot confidence and reduces stress during critical flight operations. When pilots can clearly see the visual cues provided by the lighting systems, they can trust their judgment and make more accurate decisions. This leads to improved overall safety and a smoother flying experience for both pilots and passengers.


Visual Guidance Lighting Systems (VGLS) are crucial elements of aviation infrastructure. These lighting systems provide pilots with essential visual cues and guidance, allowing them to navigate airports safely and efficiently, especially in low visibility conditions. From runway edge lights to touchdown zone lights, each component of the VGLS has a specific role in ensuring safe flight operations. The use of VGLS enhances runway visibility, improves taxiway navigation, and increases pilot confidence, ultimately contributing to the overall safety and efficiency of the aviation industry.

For More: What is BPR in Aviation? (Bypass Ratio)