Leave the Beacon On

Anti-collision lights can serve several functions, whether the airplane is running or not.

FAR 91.209 requires pilots to use anti-collision lights any time an airplane is in operation unless the pilot determines that operating conditions makes it unsafe to have them on. Whether the airplane you fly is equipped with a beacon, strobes or both, you are probably in the habit of turning on some type of anti-collision light, typically the beacon, just before you start up the engine.

But you may want to consider leaving the beacon switch in the on position at all times. Turning the beacon on and off with the master switch is not going to cause any damage. And having the beacon on any time the master switch is on can help alert people around you that somebody is in the airplane and that the propeller is likely to start spinning soon. You should, naturally, still look around and make an audible alert before cranking up the engine to help prevent an accident.

While it is best to use a checklist to help remember all the details of preflight, flight, and postflight, leaving the beacon in the on position could also help you remember to shut the master switch off. Somehow I have managed to never run a battery dry by forgetting the master switch. But there were a couple of times when the barely audible click of my beacon in the Cessna 170 reminded me to do so and once or twice when friendly bystanders reminded me when they saw that my beacon light was on after I climbed out of the airplane.

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