A Night Of Firsts

My first lesson for my night rating was last night. It went well! I got to meet my new FI when I showed up at dispatch at 8:30, she’s extremely nice.

Since legal night didn’t start until 8:57, I took my time doing the walk around and reviewing the necessary documents. This also gave my FI some time to have something to eat before we headed up.

As we walked to the airplane, the FI quizzed me an a few things:

FI: What colour are taxiway lights?

Me: Blue

FI: What colour are runway lights?

Me: White

FI: How far apart are they spaced?

Me: 200 feet

There was no hesitation, I came prepared tonight.

I was assigned an airplane that I haven’t flown since April. It’s only a handful of planes that have all the necessary items working for flying at night (nav lights, strobes, etc..). It’s one of the planes that has a miles per hour airspeed indicator, with knots on the sub scale on the inside of the dial face. Annoying in the day, more annoying at night.

The panel lights didn’t work at all, only the VOR/ILS instrument lit up. The “dimmer” switch was broken as it only turned the lights on or off, no dimming was possible. So the only illumination available for the panel was the overhead dome light which was barely sufficient.

That said, the flight progressed regardless.

Flying at night is different. I suspect that it’s going to get more challenging once I leave the city. Having the city lights helps when determining where the horizon is, but once they’re gone I suspect I will have to use other methods for keeping straight and level (especially on moonless nights like last night).

Keeping an eye on the airport in the circuit was not what I expected. The runway lighting is only visible if you are viewing them parallel to the runway. When are you looking from a downwind position you just see the taxiway and other lighting, the runways are not visible. I wonder if this was to reduce light pollution.

My first landing was way too flat but by the third I pretty much knew what to look for when flaring, etc.. We did a few touch and gos on 21 (the shorter runway) and the winds where light enough to be able to switch runways.

Departing 21, I was instructed to join the right downwind for 15. I was way too high on final, so the controller suggested if I wanted to try 33 instead. I said sure and she instructed me to let her know when I was on final (it’s amazing what you can do when you’re the only one in the circuit!).

This was another first for me, doing a “circuit” for a reciprocal runway from one you departed from. Essentially what you do is just maintain runway heading after departing, give your self some room (2-3miles) then do a “tear drop”. Just a 180° turn to head back to the runway.

The rest of the night was done practicing landing on 33. The reason why we swapped, was to understand and practice what landing at night looks like on a longer vs. shorter runway.

It got some getting used to being a student again.

So what do I need in order to get my Night rating?

– 5 Hours of dual time (2 of which must be cross country time)

– 5 Hours solo time (with 10 take-offs and landings)

– 10 Hours of dual instrument time

Since I already have 5 hours of dual instrument time from my PPL, I would only need to get another 5 hours for the night rating.

If you want more information about what’s involved, check out the Flight Instructor Guide on page 171.

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2 thoughts on “A Night Of Firsts

  1. It was a shock for me, too, when I first did night training – I didn’t expect the airport to be the darkest thing in the city instead of the brightest (a rotating beacon is pretty much useless for finding an urban airport). After that, I worked a lot with the other developers at the Open Source FlightGear simulator to make sure that the airport wasn’t lit up too brightly, and that the runway edge lights were directional, so that you could do at least semi-realistic night practice using the sim. I agree that it’s disconcerting how you can’t see the runway lights (or can barely see them) on downwind.

  2. David, you’re right… The rotating beacon is useless, especially at Buttonville.
    I really should take some photos next time I’m up.

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