Night Flight

Wow, what an eye opener! Last night I completed 1.4 hours of my 3-hour night flight-training requirement for the private certificate, single-engine rating, with First Landings Aviation CFI Chris Esposito. I shot 8 full-stop landings in the Remos GX, leaving the last two of the 10 required for my dual cross-country night flight. All I can say is: What a different world than day VFR flight. That should seem obvious to anyone, but until I actually experienced it, I didn’t realize how different it would be and that reading about it in the prep books doesn’t do it justice.

The conditions offered 10 miles viz and a 30- to 40-degree 7- to 10-knot crosswind. Here are just few of my observations:

* Not being able to see the windsock on downwind for final confirmation against the AWOS info was a bit disconcerting. Adjusted by listening to AWOS more frequently.

* Not having a visible centerline on approach made it difficult for me to nail it.

* It was challenging to judge the ground distance on short final. I tended to flare for the landing a little too high, instead of closer to the ground. Strict attention to the precision approach pat indicator lights can keep this from happening. Confession: This made me realize I was defaulting to my day VFR tactics, where I tend to subconsciously rely more on my visual judgment more than the PAPI lights, so this was a great awareness exercise.

* Heavier reliance on the instruments/heading. By the time we finished seven of the landings at another airport and it was time to head back to home base, I was pretty fatigued. As a result, when leaving the pattern I initially became disoriented. Where’s that big lake that serves as my main reference point that I use to locate my airport?! What would have been a no-brainer case of pilotage in day VFR, became a challenge requiring vigilant attention to the heading indicator and GPS.

* Spotting air traffic was easy! And we did have some, both in the pattern and the vicinity.

I would love to hear how other student pilots or sport pilots training for the private would describe their first night flight experience … in the meantime, check out the video of my last landing for the night.


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