What do you think about at night?
Now that the nights are drawing in I thought it would be good to talk about night flying. I have posted before about what is required to achieve your night rating, here I want put up some things for you to consider when you fly after dark.
Colour in roads, and towns on your chart in black. Yes that’s right, black. Most light aircraft have an internal red light that makes it almost impossible to see the reds, yellows on the standard CAA ½ mill scale chart. I did not do this on my first ever night flight from Cranfield. Upon returning to the Bedford area my instructor asked me to show me where the airfield was. I immediately pointed to the one within 20 degrees on the nose and was told that I would be in a lot of trouble landing there as that was Luton. Roads and towns are nearly always lit making them a great aid to night navigation. By colouring in my chart with darker colours that would still be seen in the cockpit, I would have been better able to orientate myself by using the shape of the town and the layout of the roads.
So you get to the airfield and the sky is clear, the wind is light and variable and the dew point is very close to the temperature. A couple of things to think about here, first of all icing. Now that winter is on its way the aircraft may be cold soaked. Combine this with a high relative humidity and water will start to condense on to the airframe even if there is no visible moisture in the atmosphere. Icing as we all know is a bit of a double hazard in that not only does it reduce the amount of lift the wing generates but also it adds weight as well. If you don’t have a de-icing system, keep an eye on the temperature and the leading edge of your wing. The second is that this weather is a good recipe for fog. Have a good read of the TAFs before you go and have a few alternates planned incase you get fogged out.
To my mind there is nothing more annoying with night flying than having spent the last half an hour getting your eyes fully adjusted to the dark to have someone taxi past you with their strobes on. Good airmanship applies to the ground as well, if your aircraft doesn’t have them tied to the weight on wheels switch, make a note on your checklist to switch them on when you enter the runway.
Finally, for those of you that make use of the various radio navigation facilities, remember that Non Directional Beacons (I know they are becoming few and far between now, but even so) have a reduced range at night. Make sure you are within the published range before attempting to use them.
For more on night flying I suggest you read Sunrise to Sunset by David Robinson.
That concludes this week’s blog. If you have any tips or interesting experiences about night flying that you feel will help others please post them in the comments.