According to FAA requirements, in order to obtain a Private Pilots License you need:
3 hours of night flight training in a single engine airplane, that includes at least:
a) 1 cross country flight of over 100 nm total distance; and
b) 10 T/O’s and 10 landings to a full stop with each involving a flight in the traffic pattern at an airport.
Today was a gorgeous day today and my next two flights are looking sketchy due to some incoming rain and maybe snow and ice. So I texted my instructor to see if she had any openings in the afternoon after I got off of work. She texted back, “Not unless you want to do some night flying” I pondered this for a few minutes and get another text, “Do you have the night flying packet?” I responded yes. A few minutes later my phone buzzed, “What do you think?” I thought about it for a minute or two and said “I’m game, let’s do it!” A Night Flight, yay!
I think normally night flight is more organically scheduled. Meaning, we are getting close to the end of training and we need to get it in. I got the impression that this was kind of unexpected but why not. From what I have read and heard from others, night flight is either cool or spooky. There are some students who really don’t like flying at night and after their requirements are satisfied, never fly at night again. Ever. That had me a little concerned, excited…. maybe a little hungry. It was dinner time after all.
When I get to the airfield, there is still plenty of light to pre-flight with ease. I’m back in my favorite N4640B which I know all of the tendencies. I go into the office and we discuss what is going to happen. Sunset is at 5:25 and twilight ends at 5:55 which means that we can start logging night flight time. The goal was to complete two day takeoff and landings, and 4 night takeoff and full stop landings. The overall plan is to do this sort of thing twice, which would get me to 8 takeoff and full stop landings. Then we need to complete a night cross country which would give me the last 2 night takeoff and landings needed to satisfy the requirements for my check-ride.
We take off and there is a bit more wind then we would normally try to tackle during night flight training. about 4-6 kts with about 3 of it crosswind. We checked AWOS frequently and it kept saying calm but as soon as I lifted off the runway, I was in about a 20 degree crab to the right, so I don’t think the AWOS was giving a good representation. The first two landings I performed a mediocre slip. At least this time it was useful unlike last time.
The biggest skills we were working on was judgement and depth perception. At night due to the way our eyes function, we are horrible at judging distances so we err on the side of too high when on our approach. Better to use more runway than to hit something on approach because you’re too low.
I setup for the first night takeoff and it was pretty much like any other takeoff except I had pretty lights to track to make sure I stayed on runway heading. The first landing was ok except for landing a little flat. It is much harder to judge the flair at night.
The next three trips around the pattern were pretty serene and easy. I even got a couple of “Nice Job” comments on my landings. YAY!
Overall, I found night flying to be pretty serene and peaceful. I will certainly fly at night after I get my license. Usually, the air is pretty calm and not a whole lot of turbulence so I imagine it is really cool for a cross country trip. I ended my flight with a new confidence in that I can tackle night flying but also I had some pretty decent slips that helped me out in that department. Can’t wait until my next flight.
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