You’re sitting in a plane on the runway waiting to take off and you hear a toot-toot sound that seems to be coming from a horn. Do airplanes really have horns? And, if so, what are they there for? You may have wondered this yourself at times. Today we answer these questions and some more!
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Do Airplanes Have Horns?
Airplanes do, in fact, have horns but they are not used to alert anyone as they are in automobiles. Instead, these horns are used as a communication tool and only while they’re on the ground. Ground engineers frequently have to work in the cockpit and they will often use the horn to contact their coworkers on the ground.
Where Is the Horn on an Airplane?
If you’re looking at the instrument panel inside of an airplane, you likely won’t notice the button that says “GND” on it but if you do and you press it, a horn will sound.
And not just any horn, but a horn that sounds as if several steamboats are passing by underneath the aircraft. It is a loud horn but it is that way on purpose.
Even ground crew can communicate with those in the cockpit if they plug a headset into the right button at the front of the aircraft.
In addition, the airplane itself can sound a horn that resembles a siren when certain problems arise, such as a fire or when a certain system breaks down.
Each siren has a somewhat different sound, which allows the engineers to determine exactly what the problem is.
As you can see, airplane horns sound completely different and serve very different functions than vehicle horns.
Communication Between Crew and Pilots
Horns such as the one mentioned above don’t work while the plane is in the air so the crew and pilots need a separate type of horn in order to get in touch with one another.
Remember that aircraft horns are there for communication only. To do this, they use a horn that is attached to a set of multicolored lights with each light meaning something different.
In the cockpit, there is a panel with a set of lights that are either red, blue, or amber. Here is what they mean:
- Red lights mean that the situation needs immediate attention.
- Amber lights mean a warning that the crew needs to be aware of.
- Blue lights mean an advisory that lets them know that everything is okay.
In addition to these visual cues, there are also auditory cues — in other words, horns and other noises. They are activated for a variety of reasons. For instance, when there are cabin pressure issues, a continuous horn is sounded.
Configuration issues, such as when flaps or speed brakes are not configured properly before takeoff, get either a beeping sound or a horn that toots at intervals.
If the plane is leaving a certain altitude or coming up to a new one, airplane horns that sound a single chime will be used.
If the gear configuration seems to be unsafe, a horn will sound along with the appropriate indicator light coming on.
If the autopilot has disconnected, red warning lights come on and various horn sounds are made.
Other warnings include a “clacker” sound that is used when a certain speed is exceeded and a bell with red fire warning lights in instances when there is an engine or APU fire.
Types of Horns on an Airplane
Airplane horns can be various types including standard horns, chimes, sirens, or klaxon sounds. Just what is a klaxon? It is a fancy word for a loud warning device such as the ones used on airplanes.
Klaxon is actually a brand name but it is now used as a generic term for these horns, much as the word “Kleenex” is now used for facial tissues. Any type of loud noise that attracts attention can be called a klaxon.
These are penetrating sounds that you cannot ignore, not just soft horns that no one else hears. They are warning horns inside of the cockpit so the pilots can communicate effectively with the crew.
As you can see from the information above, the horns come in various sounds according to what they are trying to communicate.
Many things can go wrong when you’re preparing for takeoff and landing. Even though those problems are kept between the pilots and the crew, they still have to have a way to communicate with each other that doesn’t alarm the passengers.
This is where airplane horns come in. The standard horns are used only on the ground but there are other warning sounds used while in the air.
These horns and sounds are highly sophisticated and very effective at what they do. If you’d like to learn more about horns on airplanes, the information is available online; suffice it to say that without this warning system, flying a plane would definitely be a lot more complex.