Saturday, September 03, 2005
Flying Lesson #47: Dual Night Cross-Country
Tonight the instructor and I made a cross-country flight to Thomson-McDuffie County Airport (HQU), which is about 90 nautical miles east of Atlanta. On the way back home, we stopped at Athens/Ben Epps Airport (AHN).
Remembering all the regulations about night flying is challenging, because it seems that the FAA has three different definitions of "night":
- In general, "night" means the period between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight (for an explanation of what "civil twilight" is, see http://aa.usno.navy.mil/faq/docs/RST_defs.html#top
- However, position lights must be turned on between sunset and sunrise.
- Finally, a pilot may not act as pilot-in-command of a flight carrying passengers between the period starting one hour after sunset and ending one hour before sunrise unless the pilot has has made three takeoffs and landings to a full stop during that period in the last 90 days.
The FAA requires that private pilot students undergo a minimum of three hours of night flight training, including the following:
- one night cross-country flight of over 100 miles distance
- 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop
This flight fulfilled the three-hour requirement and the cross-country requirement. However, I only did five night takeoffs and landings. In a subsequent lesson, I'll do the other five.
This was my first night lesson. It was a pretty good night for it: visibility was good and surface winds were calm. Once we got away from the bright lights of the metro Atlanta area, we had a starry sky.
The flight went pretty well. I'm handling the multitasking aspect of flight a lot better. However, I did manage to get us lost. The route I'd planned was supposed to take us over three other airports between PDK and HQU. When we got to the area where that third airport was supposed to be, we couldn't find it. I saw an airport beacon up to the north, and while it seemed pretty far out of the way (I didn't think I'd gone too far off-course), I figured that must be it. So I flew toward it, but checking the VOR and DME on the way indicated it couldn't the right place. It turned out to be one of the airports I had planned to overfly on the return leg, so once that was clear, it was easy to pull out my return-trip plan and figure out the course to the destination.
Landing at night is a little different from landing during the day, but it wasn't too bad. My first couple of landings were a little firm, as judging altitude above the runway is different at night, but my other landings were OK. The instructor had me make a couple of landings without the landing light on, and on one trip around the traffic pattern, he turned off the plane's interior lights (so I couldn't read the instruments).
This was the most fun I've had in a while. As I get near the end of training, flying lessons have become unpleasant chores, but I didn't mind this one.
Logged tonight: 3 hours dual night cross-country in N9103M, with five night takeoffs and five night landings, and 0.3 hours simulated instrument conditions.
(Of course, I could be wrong. I don't have my FARs with me.)