The Holy Grail of Landing Lights

Lower GlaStar cowling attached to the aircraft with installed Flyleds Seven Stars landing/taxi light.

Back in 1993, I owned a 1956 V-tail Bonanza that had a 500-watt landing light installed in its left-wing leading edge and a 100-watt taxi light installed in the right-wing leading edge. When the 500-watt landing light was turned on during final approach, it lit up the entire landing zone from a half mile out. As the approach progressed to near touchdown, the entire runway and beyond was lit up. It was such a blessing to have that powerful landing light. However, that light drew 40 amps of current and pumped out an abundance of heat. You had to turn the landing light off the second the airflow over the wing slowed down or you would melt the plastic lens on the leading edge. Also, with the slower turning generator, the 40-amp demand drew current from the battery—but that old 500-watt incandescent light put out a glorious 387,000 candela!

The original 4509 landing light mounted in the lower GlaStar cowling just below the air inlet.

I now have a GlaStar under construction in which I installed a 100-watt GE 4509 incandescent landing light in the cowling using the factory installation kit. It has been in the cowling for the last few years while the rest of the kit is nearing completion. It has always bothered me that I can’t have the light output that I used to have in my old Bonanza. The 8-amp current draw of this 100-watt lamp is the only benefit. It also bothered me that I had no taxi light and no convenient place to put a taxi light. My GlaStar has the optional auxiliary fuel tanks installed in the wings near each wingtip. The tanks fill the space, leaving no extra room for a Van’s style forward-spar installation of landing and taxi lights in the leading edges.

While scanning the July 2022 issue of KITPLANES, I came across Marc Cook’s article about modern aircraft lighting entitled “Light Show.” Marc’s article is a wealth of information for all sorts of LED lighting needs. My particular interest was drawn to the landing lights section with many manufacturers offering dual-duty landing and taxi lights in one fixture. One light jumped off the page: It was the Flyleds Seven Stars landing/taxi light putting out a whopping 588,000 candela! Actually, if you use the diffuser to achieve the taxi light function, the landing light only puts out 517,489 candela.

But wait—that’s about 34% more than my old Bonanza 500-watt lamp while offering a taxi light with just the flip of a switch. With a current draw of just 7.5 amps, I could use the same circuit breaker, add a double-pole-double-throw switch and install the Seven Stars in the same cowling mount. I thought I had found the Holy Grail of landing lights!

Stay Cool

The Seven Stars landing/taxi light has a highly efficient heat sink that extends out the back end of its metal core printed circuit board (MCPCB) about 4 inches. It is so efficient that Flyleds claims there is no power foldback, which is quite prevalent in other designs. Most competitive products have multiple LEDs that initially offer about double the light output of the 4509 sealed-beam aircraft light bulb but fold back the power to keep the LEDs from getting too hot. The result is that the light output drops to less than the 4509 in as few as 2 or 3 minutes of use.

The 4509 landing light in the mounting ring, which is attached to the mounting tube with clip-on nut plates, #6 Phillips screws, flat washers and star washers (left). The mounting plate is made from 0.090-inch-thick 6061-T6 and the mounting tabs are made from 0.050-inch-thick 6061-T6. The extra cutout is to clear the rivets inside the mounting tube (right).

The Seven Stars has the circuitry to protect its LEDs in the same fashion as the competing designs, but it uses a super heat sink that keeps the LED temperatures well below the 185° F (85° C) foldback threshold. The drawback is that the Seven Stars won’t fit in the same space as the original 4509 lamp; it is much longer and the circuit board has two flanges that extend out both sides to beyond the mounting tube of the original 4509 installation.

Alodine converted mounting plate with riveted mounting tabs (left). Back view of the mounting plate and tabs (right). All parts were made with a CNC router.

In order to use the Seven Stars in the cowling of the GlaStar, the challenge was to design an adapter plate that mounts the Seven Stars printed circuit board (PCB) while holding it securely in the original mounting tube with similar aiming adjustment capability. Using the dimensions of the Seven Stars PCB, heat sink and GlaStar mounting tube, a suitable adapter plate made from 0.090-inch-thick 6061-T6 aluminum and three mounting tabs made from 0.050-inch-thick 6061-T6 aluminum were designed and cut using a CNC router. (The CNC is not necessary; it is just an easy convenience to turn the drawing into hardware.)

Modifying the Landing Light Tube

The next step was to modify the original landing light tube that was already glassed into the lower cowling. Two large sections of the tube had to be cut away so that the PCB and adapter plate could get the LED collimating lenses close to the cowling lens and still allow adjustment for aiming. This required a cut on both sides of the tube about 2.4 inches wide and about 1.32 inch deep.

Modified mounting tube (shroud) with cutouts for the Seven Stars PCB and new mounting/adjusting slots (left). Right side view of the modified mounting tube (right).

The tab mounting holes were slotted for the top two holes that are 104° apart, while the bottom tab mounting hole prevents movement. The bottom hole is the anchor while the top two slotted holes are used to adjust the light left/right, up/down or both. The GlaStar installation manual has you adjust the beam while the aircraft is parked on the ramp so that the landing light beam illuminates an area between 60 and 80 feet in front of the nose of the aircraft. This initial setting should be good to light the landing zone while on a 3° glide slope.

Seven Stars with mounting frame attached to the back of the PCB (left). Seven Stars with mounting frame with nut clips, NAS1352C06-8 screws, flat washers and star washers (right).

The location of the mounting tabs allows room for the NAS1352C06-8 Allen head screws to extend to full grip without contacting the collimating lenses of the Seven Stars LEDs. In the pictures, notice the Seven Stars light arrangement. The outer six LEDs and collimating lenses produce a spotlight beam in an 8° cone in front of the aircraft. The center LED with its diffuser lens produces a beam of about 30°. The center LED is used alone for the taxi light while the landing light involves all seven LEDs. When you include the 4500K to 5000K color temperature of these LEDs, the perceived light is much greater than the 517,489 candela would indicate. It is an absolutely awesome landing light!

Seven Stars mounted in the GlaStar lower cowling (left). A 0.031-inch aluminum shim was added at each screw location, making a very snug fit. The shim was bent at a 0.100-inch radius to fit around the mounting tabs. Front view of the Seven Stars in the GlaStar cowling (right).


Wiring the light is a simple task of providing the 14 AWG power and ground to the landing light function while sending the 18 AWG power (using the same ground as the landing light) to the taxi light function. All connections are available on the left wing of the PCB with simple push-in connections. I used shielded twisted pair wire for each function and provided a circular plastic connector for ease of removing the lower cowling. The shielding of the wires is to keep unwanted ignition noise from getting back to my power source.

The wired Seven Stars (left). Seven Stars with cowling on the aircraft (right). There’s a half-inch clearance to the forward O-320 engine baffling. The baffling port at the lower part of the heatsink is inlet air for cabin heat. Air always flows through the port. When not using cabin air, the heated air is dumped overboard at the rear cowl flap.

One of the better features of this lower cowling installation is the heat sink location, which is a full half-inch forward of the engine baffling. The air inlet for the cabin heat is right behind the heat sink of the Seven Stars. This inlet always has air flowing through it. When the cabin heat or defrost is on, the heated air flows into the cabin. When the cabin heat is off, the heated air is dumped overboard at the rear cowl flap. Thus, fresh air is always sent through the heat sink.

I can’t wait to finish the GlaStar and go fly this Holy Grail of landing lights.

Download the complete PDF drawings of the GlaStar cowling mounting tube, custom mounting plate and tabs, and the Seven Stars landing light parts GlaStar Landing Light Mounting Drawings.

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Robert Talir
Bob Talir is a private pilot and retired engineer with an M.S.E.E. degree in control systems. He worked on the Navy F-18 flight controls including the autopilot and automatic carrier landing system. Bob built and is flying a Flightstar II ultralight trainer. He is currently building a GlaStar that is nearing completion.


  1. I’m sorry, that wiring will not do what you’re trying to do.
    If the center light goes in a separate shielded twisted pair cable from the fat ground, as shown in the picture. Then there will be a current loop: out the 18awg supply and back the separate 14awg wire.
    The shields will not do what they should, they only shield dipole fields nicely not monopole.
    The proper wiring needs to be in one cable, with a shield around it then doing even more.
    To test it, use a dc capable current clamp meter, there should never be any net current in any cable.

  2. These are very bright landing lights as long as you connect them using adequately-sized wires. A friend and I tested them at dusk and they were visible from 13 miles away. But the light output drops rapidly if the supplied voltage drops due to resistance in the connections. Use at least 14AWG wires to connect to the ALL +12V and GND terminals in a composite aircraft. Use at least 14AWG to connect the ALL +12V terminal in a metal airplane where the light is mounted in a wingtip. Be familiar with AC 43.13-1B Figure 11-2. Shoot for no more than 0.5V of voltage drop. You can get away with 18 AWG on the TAXI +12V terminal, because that terminal only powers the center LED, which draws about 1 Amp. The light runs on DC power, ignoring pulsed operation, so shielded wiring is not required to protect other devices from electromagnetic radiation from the power connections to the light. But considering the high current supplied to the light, twisted pairs or triples will help minimize magnetic fields around the wiring, and minimize pickup of stray signals from other sources. Google Ampere’s Law if you don’t remember your high school physics.

  3. “putting out a whopping 588,000 candela! Actually, if you use the diffuser to achieve the taxi light function, the landing light only puts out 517,489 candela”

    I’m sorry but the actual output without the taxi diffuser on the central LED is just under 300,000 Cd not almost 588K as claimed, they have made a miscalculation. Closer to 1/2 the claimed output. Still a very sufficient and powerful landing light, about double compared to the the main-stream competitors. These claimed numbers are impossible based on the actual individual LED’s themselves manufacturer. These units do not use PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) so they don’t generate any EMI or RFI of themselves.
    How do I know, I have tested them in our LAB, it is a great product however.

  4. I am very curious to know if Dan Blumel measured the voltages on the ALL +12V and GND terminals on the Seven Stars lights and the current flowing through those terminals when he ran his light output test, and what the numbers were. I am also curious to know if he charted different voltages/current/light output levels and if that chart was published somewhere on the web.

  5. This unit draws in the neighborhood of 100 watts, about the same as a 100 watt GE4509 Incandescent.
    I would recommend even 12 awg wire unless the out and back wire run is quite short.
    It is not input voltage regulated for a flat light intensity output of say ranged from 12.0 V to 14.5 V.
    But, at least some of the AeroLEDS models when tested also weren’t voltage regulated for a flat intensity output either. Done just a few years ago.
    A cooling box fan or a ram air blast tube would serve these installations well, to optimize LED junction cooling and longer life with full sustained output.


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