As Daylight Savings Time begins and more flights occur after sunset, being prepared for flying at night is crucial.
Spectacular views, cooler (calmer) air, and less traffic make flying at night a delightful experience for many pilots and their passengers. In fact, many pilots prefer flying at night because the experience is so enjoyable.
Whether or not you plan to do a fair amount of night flying this year, it’s a smart move to make sure you’re ready. Not every flight plays out the way you originally intended, and even minor delays due to weather or a meeting that ran long can mean a return trip that unexpectedly involves flying at dusk or beyond.
Here are some of the things to remember so you’re prepared for your next night flight:
Your night vision can play tricks on you.
It goes without saying that our ability to see well deteriorates in the dark. Even so, it’s easy to underestimate the impact that night vision can have when navigating in the air. The FAA recommends several practices as safegaurds to help increase night vision effectiveness.
- Take 30 minutes or so to adapt your eyes to the low level of light before beginning your flight
- Use oxygen if it is available during a night flight because additional deterioration in night vision happens at altitudes as low as 5,000 feet.
- If you encounter an unusually bright light, close one eye to help avoid the blinding effect that can occur.
- Don’t wear sunglasses after sunset.
- Move your eyes more slowly than you do in daylight.
- Focus on seeing objects
- Maintain good physical condition and avoid smoking, drinking, and using harmful substances.
Always allow additional preflight planning time for night flights.
If there’s any chance your flight could last until after sunset, you should plan for the possibility. Here are some of the additional things you’ll want to do during your preflight planning.
- Make sure to have at least one flashlight in good working condition (plus a spare set of batteries) on board for all night flights. Ideally, your flashlight should be able to produce white light for preflight aircraft inspections and red light for performing cockpit operations. Keep your flashlight in a spot where you can easily find it during your flight.
- Check to ensure your lighting systems are all working properly and are compliant with night flying regulations.
- Brush up on airport navigation at night.
- Make sure you’re familiar with the availability and status of any lighting systems at your destination airport.
Ongoing practice and recurrent training is critical for safe flying.
The FAA recently released an advisory circular that discussed how important regular recurrent training is for all general aviation pilots. Since only three hours of night flying experience are required for achieving a private pilot’s certificate, many private pilots have far less training after sunset, even if they meet the requirements for night flying currency. Night flying necessitates some very specific knowledge and different habits than day flying, so it is wise to schedule recurrent training an hour or so after sunset to refresh your skills and make sure your prepared. Having plenty of training and experience allows you to know your personal limitations and create the necessary habits that will empower you to enjoy night flying with confidence.
To schedule recurrent training and/or update your night flying currency,
you can contact us anytime at 402-475-8400!