Check Cockpit Lighting
Photo: Cary Green
Night flying presents enough of an additional challenge to us pilots that the FAA maintains certain requirements for night-specific training for the Private and Commercial Pilot Certificates and for night flying currency in order to carry passengers. In order to be safe at night, panel and cockpit lighting is important as it ensures that you can see critical information such as airspeed, attitude and altitude.
If you are fortunate enough to have a glass-panel-equipped airplane, this may not be as much of a concern. But even if you’re flying with backlit glass, you need to have good lighting in the cockpit in order to see what you have written or are jotting down on your notepad. And just imagine trying to find eyeglasses after dropping them in a pitch-black cockpit.
Flights often take much longer than anticipated. So if there is any chance that you will return at or after dusk, you will be happy that you made sure your cockpit lighting was working properly before you took off. This is particularly important if you rent the airplane you are flying as many rentals have marginal cockpit lighting at best. Whether your interior lighting is good or not, make sure you always bring a flashlight with working batteries as a backup.
Flying at night without proper panel and cockpit lighting can be a major safety issue. So don’t just include the navs, strobes and landing lights in your preflight check. Make sure the instrument panel and cabin can be properly lit as well.