Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Flying Lesson #46 - Fly By Night Away From Here

Last night the weather indicated we would be good to go, so I headed to the airport.

I arrived as the sun was setting.

It would be my first night flight experience.

So I did the pre-flight - full fuel, good oil, everything was A-OK and I was ready to go.

Will arrived and said that since the weather looked good but there was a good crosswind around KPTK. So, instead of starting with night time pattern work we would do the night cross country today over to KHAI, Three Rivers Airport off to the west.

So I worked the radios, got taxi, did the run-up and got takeoff clearance and I took off into the sunset, keeping the ailerons into the wind as I did so. We had approval for a left turn onto course so I did a gentle climbing turn and headed on course up to 6,500 feet.

There was a cloud layer that was pretty scattered with lots of holes in it and it looked just beautiful.

We went above it to 8,500 feet, the highest I've been so far, and then dropped down after we had passed the cloud layer.

To say that it was an awesome ride is an understatement. The air was very calm up there, and it got darker and darker as I flew to the west.

Soon it was pretty much pitch black out with the light on the ground, the moon and stars as the only illumination aside from the plane itself.

Will introduced me to pilot operated lighting as we passed by a few fields - 7 clicks on the frequency and the runway lights up nice and bright, 5 and its medium and three and its low.

Then approaching KHAI I dialed in the AWOS, set the correct frequency and turned on the runway lights. No other traffic was in the area and I made a very nice entry into the pattern and a nice landing. Landings feel different at night.

Then we headed back to KPTK, flying at 5,500 feet and profusely enjoying every minute.

I got the ATIS and there was still a crosswind going at KPTK. I called KPTK tower when I was 12 miles out and was cleared to enter the downwind for 27L. We got to land on the big runway this time.

I came in and did a very nice crosswind landing. I then exited the runway and got clearance to taxi back to the flight school and my first night time flying experience was done.

That's 232 nautical miles and 2.7 hours on the Hobbs meter for my first night time cross country.

Should the weather hold, I'm going up more at night this week to get the pattern work done and get more night time flying experience.

Unfortunately, I'm going to lose Will to the airlines - he just got a position with Delta Connection and Will will become one of their youngest copilots starting mid-May. He's a great guy and fine pilot indeed. I'm happy for him to be moving ahead with his dream of being an airline pilot, but sad to be losing a great instructor.


Comrade Misfit said...

Night flying can be quasi-instrument flying. Keep them in your scan, and believe what they tell you, lest you do a JFK,Jr.

Night flying will also cure you of any temptation to scud-run, once you see, from their blinking lights, how many frakking towers there are out there.

I've had a couple of near-engine failures in the past, so I try to avoid night VFR unless it is nearly CAVU out. A thin cloud layer can sneak in under one and it won't be noticeable until descent.

Aaron said...

Yes, I was scanning the instruments quite regularly and I have no desire to do the Kennedy triathlon.

There certainly are a lot of towers, and Michigan has quite a few unlit ones to add to the fun.