Night Flight Take Two

Last nights flight was the most fun I’ve had doing circuits in a long time.

I arrived at the airport at around 2030 to a mostly clear sky with a full moon. The temperature was in the mid 20s, and the windsock looked like a limp noodle. Perfect flying weather.

After figuring out which is the best plane to take up (GDQG, by the way) my FI and I climbed in and headed to local north. This is the first time I’ve flown out of Buttonvilles control zone at night.Our destination was Simcoe Regional Airport (CNB9). The purpose of this trip was to:

– Learn how the ARCAL system works

– Learn how to find an airport at night

– Learn how to do circuits at an unfamiliar airport at night

I was able to spot the flashing airport beacon from pretty far away. This airport is easy to find at night as there are not a lot of city lights in the area (a contrast to where Buttonville is). I clicked the microphone PTT 5 times in a row and *ding* the runway lights came on. By clicking the PTT again, you can adjust the brightness of the lights.

We were doing circuits on runway 10, which called for a right hand pattern (boo!). This runway did have a PAPI, which helps quite a bit at night.

After a while of touch and gos, we headed back to Buttonville via Barrie. The challenge now was to navigate and identify the airport at night.

During the day you use landmarks to determine where you are and where things are. At night, its much harder to see those landmarks. Thankfully some of the landmarks that I use during the day to determine my position also works at night. For example, coming from the north heading south to the airport, highway 404 has a bend in it, just north of Preston Lake. This was easy to spot at night. The Cathedral/Victoria Square (which is about 3-4 miles north of the airport) shows up as a huge black spot as the property is not lit like everything else.

The airport beacon is weak (thanks to complaints from the residents) and is drowning in all the other city lights. It’s sometimes easier to see the lack of light, than to look for a particular flashing light.

I found it very helpful to use the voids of light (in a city environment) to match up with my map than the actual shape of the city.

My FI was impressed with my downwind check, I have Jenn to thank for that. Final was a little high, but we landed safely.

I’m still starting the flare a little too high. In some cases I have to add power to prevent the plane from stalling. I think by next lesson, I’ll have it down pat. I’ve been tasked to plan a cross country. One that is not too easy (Ie, flying over the city) and not too hard (have some navaids around to use). I suspect we wont be able to use GPS on this x-country, but only the standard VOR/NDB type navaids. This will be the first time I will actually use it.

Because I also need to get at least 5 hours of instrument time, my FI suggested that I plan a longer x-country and we can do the return trip under the hood. My wallet suggested that I do 2 hours in the Sim.

It was a great flight, what everyone has been saying is true: getting your night rating is fun!

4 Responses

  1. david says:

    I suggest that you plan your night cross-country to Kingston (CYGK). It’s about 45 minutes each way in a trainer, not *too* easy (the lakeshore isn’t necessarily obvious at night, and Trenton Terminal won’t let you follow the 401 through their zone). Kingston has an NDB and an ILS if you want to do IFR practice under the hood, late-night fuel, and one long runway (as well as a medium-length one, both well lit). If it’s not too late, there’s also an on-field FSS to open and close flight plans and provide traffic advisories.

  2. Blake says:

    David,
    Thanks for the suggestion. I was actually thinking of heading up to Ottawa. I haven’t looked at a chart yet, but I’d like to take this opportunity to use an airway.
    I’ll let you know what I come up with.
    I decided to check out YGK at google maps via ourairports and was disappointed that the high resolution image stops halfway across the airport.

  3. ron says:

    Have you had a chance to take any pictures during night flying…would love to see some.
    Ron

  4. Blake says:

    Not Yet..
    I will be bringing my camera next time around though. It’s hard, because of the low light levels, you cant really take any shots.