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  • Night Flying

    I love night flying. Mountain flying is why I got into flying but night flying is my second favorite type.

    Since I’ve been away from flying for a while and I’m new to flying with an EFIS I’ve found that I’m pretty uncomfortable at night. I think it's mostly a proficiency thing but I think night flying could be a worthy topic of discussion.

    So what do you guys do stay safe and comfortable while night flying?



    2B09399F-40CE-43AE-81E8-C467C27645E1.jpeg
    Last edited by whee; 12-24-2019, 08:02 PM.
    Scratch Built 4-place Bearhawk. Continental IO-360, 88” C203 McCauley prop.

  • #2
    During my instrument training I always preferred to do it at night. I didn't need to see outside anyway so I just got good at night landings. But I really liked it too. It always weirded me out landing though, it was like trying to land in a black hole. No depth perception until I was about 5 feet above the ground and could look out the side window and see the runway. But it was fun.

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    • #3
      I learned to fly in a Worrier. I found that the light in the nose made night landings a lot easier than is a 172 with the lights in the wings. On final I would approach the run way trying to stay at the correct altitude and wait until I could see the light on the runway and use that to guide me to a landing. I plan to have a light in the nose in my 4 place for that reason. Like davzLSA, I found that night flying was a great way to practice for IFR flying.

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      • #4
        Personally, the risk/reward of flying at night doesn't pay off for me, so we don't fly the Bearhawk at night.

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        • #5
          I too did my instrument training at night. Often in actual conditions. But overall I can't recommend single piston engine flying at night. In the event of an engine failure you don't know what your going to hit until you hit it.
          Gerry
          Patrol #30

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          • #6
            I enjoy night flying. I usually watch the runway lights form in to a straight line down the runway. Landing lights focus too close for me to judge altitude.

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            • #7
              I am putting lights on my plane, but only for visibility in low light. Dawn and dusk last a long time at the higher latitudes. I was never a big fan of single engine night flying.

              The other thing I started wondering about is big brother. If your plane is not registered as night equipped, or whatever they call it, will ADS-B automatically tell on you if they see you flying 1 minute after "night" starts?

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              • #8
                I totally understand and appreciate the choice to not fly at night. In the past it was something I was totally comfortable with so I’m exploring to see if I will be comfortable with it again. Lots of people fly single engine IFR and I’m not sure that is something I would ever be comfortable with but I can’t really justifly that in my head since I’d think they’d be pretty similar in an emergency situation.

                Landing isn’t an issue. I’ve never had landing lights, and still don’t, but I’ve always found that I can judge my hight above the ground good enough and I just set up the plane for a slow descent to the ground with no flair. Like what I imagine a glassy water landing on floats would be. Typically my bight landings are better than day landings.😳

                Back when I was young and dumb(er) I commuted to college in my Luscombe. Most of those flights were in the middle of the night through sparsely populated parts of Idaho. No gps or any other nav aid besides a map and the distant glow of the next town or farm. I loved every minute of it.

                Last night I kept catching myself applying a lot of left rudder without even realizing it. I also had the early feelings of vertigo which as long as I catch it soon enough I can shake it off. But both of those issues make it unsafe for me to take passengers on a night flight so I need to work through them. Getting my instrument rating would go a long ways toward making night flight safer but that’s not going to happen for a while.
                Scratch Built 4-place Bearhawk. Continental IO-360, 88” C203 McCauley prop.

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                • #9
                  EFIS and moving maps give you more SA than you had in the past. If I was on floats in Minnesota (lots of lakes), or something similar, I would be more comfortable.
                  I guess I would NEED a reason to fly at night. I wouldn't do it for the fun of it. Lots of dawns and dusks are probably in my near future, but not really hard night flying.

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                  • #10
                    Night flying is IFR flying even if the feds let you do it without rating and instruments. Between a whole bunch of illusions and the black on black can be imc even if there's not a cloud in the sky.
                    Night vfr is far more ifr than clear day ifr is.

                    I have always loved it at least in twins. No where near as much noise on the radio and you can just enjoy the sky.

                    Piston single at night for me means I'm going to be really high. Power off glide distance of an airport probably. Like crossing a body of water.

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                    • #11
                      Both Svyolo and zkelly2 make good points above and I share their views, along with Jerad/Gerald and others.

                      It’s common to experience vertigo a lot while learning to fly on instruments, although you do adapt to it, and it’s largely mitigated with currency. Vertigo is terribly unforgiving if solo, and/or night VFR.

                      Personally I never got used to night VFR, singles or twins, and prefer not to do it. IFR is very different because you are totally reliant/immersed and usually current on instruments so the exterior visual effects tend not to influence as much, but again currency plays a much larger factor than with VFR.

                      Incidentally, I think that having an autopilot with an Auto Level button would offer an added level of safety, and as a bonus it would also buy time for a spurious medical event regardless of VFR or IFR (....thread drift). Something I never considered when younger, until I experienced a mild incapacitation event a few years ago.

                      Just my 2c worth.

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                      • #12
                        A little story about night flying that helped shape my current habits:

                        When I was a student pilot flying out of Manhattan KS, one evening I went up with my instructor for night flight training in a C172. As we pre-flighted, he asked to see my flashlight but I had forgotten it at home. My flippant answer was "I forgot it but you have your flashlight so we are good". He just smiled and we continued the pre-flight. The flight itself was absolutely beautiful under a clear sky with a full moon and finally, too soon in my opinion, we had to head back to the airport.

                        Mind you, this was in the early '80s so we did not have headsets using instead the hand mic and overhead speaker for our communications. At the time, Manhattan was a non-towered airport with a FSS so what followed was a result of the friendship between my instructor and the FSS operators.

                        About 5 miles out, I noticed my instructor was talking into the mic but I could not hear what he was saying so I did not give it much thought because at that point in my training he handled a lot of the radio communications. A few minutes later I was lined up on a straight-in approach to the runway and about 2 miles out when suddenly the airplane "experienced" an electrical failure were I lost all instrument lights. No problem I thought, I'll use my instructor's flashlight... except he refused to hand it over saying he was a passenger and did not have one! Now I started to sweat a little bit as I was peering at the instruments trying to read them in the very dim light while continuing the approach.

                        A few moments later, at about a mile out, the airport "experienced" a total electrical failure (runway lights, beacon, everything)... I can assure you that got my attention! Now I was scared and turned to my instructor with the "doe in the headlight" look I'm sure instructors the world over a familiar with. He just smiled and said "Fly the airplane. You can see the runway, so just fly the airplane". I did just that and made a decent landing. Ever since that night, I've never departed on a night flight without have a flashlight, batteries, and in some cases, even a spare flashlight on board and within easy reach at all times.

                        I have flown a lot at night and have always been comfortable doing so and I enjoy it greatly. There is something almost magical about flying on a clear, cold night with a full moon over a landscape covered with fresh snow...

                        In my humble opinion, the key to safe and successful night flying is training and practice, just as it is for all other aspects of flying. By understanding the risks involved, be it night flying, instrument flying, cross-wind landing, etc, we can prepare for them to the best of our abilities. It is essential that we all establish our own personal limitations and follow them as I can tell you that on a couple of occasions I have exceeded my personal limitations and I am very fortunate to lived through them and learned the lesson those experiences had to teach.

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                        • #13
                          I also enjoy night flying. In the summer with convective activity, it can make a much smoother flight if you have a passenger uncomfortable with turbulence, which would be my wife. A few years back we were returning from San Francisco to home and couldn't get an early start. Crossing the Sierras wasn't bad but then things got rough into Nevada and especially Utah. About 4 in the afternoon, my wife made it clear we needed a break. I can't remember the small town we stopped at but they had a courtesy car. We had dinner, drove around to look at local scenery and departed at sunset. Rest of the flight was smooth and quite beautiful under the stars. I do agree that night flying can be a lot like IFR and would be a great idea to hav the rating. Somehow I got my private without doing any night instruction. My IFR instructor took care of that as well, that was in Alaska. A lot of flying up there included returning at night in the winter. With snow cover and even a partial moon you had great visibility to find an emergency landing spot.
                          Last edited by rodsmith; 12-25-2019, 12:39 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Nev View Post
                            Both Svyolo and zkelly2 make good points above and I share their views, along with Jerad/Gerald and others.

                            It’s common to experience vertigo a lot while learning to fly on instruments, although you do adapt to it, and it’s largely mitigated with currency. Vertigo is terribly unforgiving if solo, and/or night VFR.

                            Personally I never got used to night VFR, singles or twins, and prefer not to do it. IFR is very different because you are totally reliant/immersed and usually current on instruments so the exterior visual effects tend not to influence as much, but again currency plays a much larger factor than with VFR.

                            Incidentally, I think that having an autopilot with an Auto Level button would offer an added level of safety, and as a bonus it would also buy time for a spurious medical event regardless of VFR or IFR (....thread drift). Something I never considered when younger, until I experienced a mild incapacitation event a few years ago.

                            Just my 2c worth.
                            You should plan a night flight exactly like an IFR flight with known safe altitudes and exact known positions. On an airway above the mea isn't a bad idea, but off airway at altitudes above the moca or on your exact planned route above charted obstacles works just as well. Basically inventing your own airway. At no point should you assume that you can fly visually. It's an IFR flight, just maybe with a more pirate IFR approach to it.

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                            • #15
                              Speaking of EFIS, back when I flew a fair bit at night (which I too enjoy) sometimes I'd fly in C182s with a Garmin G1000. The black on the screen was way too bright, even when trying to adjust contrast and brightness to darken it. I'd turn it down to where I couldn't even make it out, turning it up enough occasionally to get a look. Even with it adjusted fully down, it would still hinder my night vision. At OSH for a few years I'd try different displays finding some worse than others but one would need to get in the dark with eyes adjusted to tell how good it might be. Since my future night flying will be a ways out I've given up for now. When the Bearhawk is nearing completion I'll get serious about it again.

                              Anyone find a unit with good blackness from current mix?
                              Last edited by marcusofcotton; 12-25-2019, 07:02 PM. Reason: spelling error

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