Ask FLYING: Why Are Windsocks the Color They Are?

Airport windsocks aren’t there to make a fashion statement. Here’s why they’re different colors.

Airport windsocks need to be in a contrasting color to the surroundings. [Courtesy: Holland Aviation via Pixabay]

Q: Why do some airports have black windsock, some with black and white stripes, some are orange and some have orange with white stripes?

A: The color of windsocks has a lot to do with what part of the world they are in. They need to be in a contrasting color to the surroundings.

In the United States, most airport windsocks are orange, red, or white or a combination of these. 

The FAA’s advisory circular on windsocks—AC 150/5345-27D—notes: "Color of the windsock fabric may be natural (white), yellow, or orange. Color will be specified by the purchaser."

The idea of the windsocks at airports is to provide the pilots with a visual representation of wind direction and velocity, not to make a fashion or branding statement. The contrasting colors of red/white, orange/white tend to make the windsock more visible against grass, trees and pavement. The stripes on the socks are calibrated for wind speed. A fully extended windsock, like the ones you see at non-towered airports, usually suggests a wind speed of 15 knots or greater.

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Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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