Paul Fiebich, EAA 57724
The goal of this article is to show how to install an anti-collision light in each wingtip immediately forward of the navigation light, as shown here.
Most of my flying is in the Wichita, Kansas, metropolitan area and the surrounding communities that have air traffic from three major airports: McConnell Air Force Base (IAB), Wichita Mid-Continent Airport (ICT), and Colonel James Jabara Airport (AAO). Additionally, there are the runways for the aircraft companies, airports for numerous small towns, and several private grass fields adding to the congestion. It is neat to see other planes while I am flying, but I like to be seen by them, too.
Typically when flying my slow-moving AirBike, I turn on the white tail-mounted flashing strobe and the headlight to improve my visibility. It is surprising how quickly a Beechcraft King Air or Cessna single-engine propeller-driven test plane can invade my field of view! Sometimes I wonder if they really do see me, or if we just miss each other by pure chance. Consequently, my head is constantly on a swivel.
I have never had a problem seeing and avoiding other aircraft (at least I hope so) but always felt that I could take additional measures to improve my visibility to them. Recently an opportunity to do just that developed when a friend gave me two personal emergency strobe lights such as those worn by prepared people in distress situations. These are waterproof units that pin to the user’s clothing or are held to a metal surface with strong magnets.
The descriptions and photos in this article explain how I adapted two personal emergency strobe lights into my plane’s wingtips to act as anti-collision lights. You can do the same with a couple hours of work and less than $60 worth of components. The most expensive items are the strobes, and those prices can vary.
Tail-mounted strobe is hard wired into the generator.
It is always on.
Powered with a single D-cell battery, this personal strobe can provide continuous operation for 48 hours and is visible up to 3 miles away. It can be purchased online from either of these two sites: http://LandfallNavigation.com and www.MREdepot.com. Depending upon the source and model, the strobes range in price from $17 to $25 each, plus shipping. They may also be purchased at well-stocked sporting goods stores.
The built-in strobe switch is bypassed when the toggle switch is connected.
Modified and assembled strobe/switch unit.
Connecting the switch wires to the strobe’s
electrical contacts. Larger view
Holes drilled in the strobe-housing end permit the toggle switch wires to enter and be soldered to the existing battery and switch contacts. This defeats the strobe’s waterproof characteristic, which isn’t a concern because this portion of the strobe housing will be protected inside the wing. Some strobes have a coil spring for the battery base contact instead of the flat spring shown. In that situation, wrapping one switch wire around the coil spring before soldering provides a mechanical connection in addition to the soldered electrical connection. It matters not which wire goes to which contact; the switch merely breaks the circuit. The strobe has now been modified to bypass its built-in switch and can be operated with the remote toggle switch.
Disassembled strobe unit. Larger view
This exploded view shows all the parts necessary to install the anti-collision light: single-throw single-pole toggle switch (from Radio Shack), two 12-inch wires, strobe unit, and D-cell battery.
Wing rib template. Larger view
Using an extra wing rib from the original airplane construction aids in determining an unobstructed area in the wingtip rib to locate the strobe. The location also had to be within an arm’s reach of a nearby inspection hole because the strobe case is installed from inside the wing while the clear magnifying dome attaches from the outside of the wing. I needed to reach through the inspection hole to the back side of the wingtip rib to install the strobe housing and switch.
Making the cutout with a hole saw. Larger view
A hole saw and a portable drill quickly made a neat-looking mounting hole.
Smoothing and sizing the hole. Larger view
A drum sander and portable drill are used to smooth the hole edge and size it for a snug fit of the strobe’s threaded neck. Drill a smaller hole sized to accommodate the toggle switch’s threaded shaft.
Reassemble the components by inserting the strobe housing through the wingtip rib from inside the wing, install the battery and strobe bulb from the outside, and then secure everything by slipping on the gasket and screwing on the clear magnifying dome. Push the switch’s threaded shaft through its mounting hole in the wingtip rib and secure it with a control nut. Orient the switch toggle so up is ON and down is OFF. Do the same thing with the other wingtip.
Wingtip anti-collision lights complement the plane’s
existing navigation lights and tail-mounted strobe light
to improve visual awareness by others. Larger view
To operate, flip the switches on during preflight and off during post-flight.
To make switching the strobes ON and OFF convenient, omit the wingtip switches and run the wires through the wing to the cockpit panel, connecting them to a double-pole single-throw toggle switch. Thus one switch controls both strobes and maintains their separate circuits. You also don’t need to hire a wing walker.
Good luck and have fun; now someone else can “see the light.”
Paul Fiebich is the vice president ofEAA Chapter 88, Wichita, Kansas. A retired teacher of 25 years, he has inspired middle school, high school, and technical college students alike.He also worked at Cessna Aircraft as a manufacturing engineer for 12 years. Paul has flown his homebuilt TEAM AirBike for 11 years, racking up 750 hours and more than 40,000 miles.