Friday, October 20, 2017

Flying - Fly By Night To KLAN

After not having flown at night for over a year as my last night flight was in April 2016 it was time to get up again and give it a go.

Considering the long time since I had last flown at night, I decided it would be prudent to take an instructor along for safety reasons and guidance, but I would be pilot in command and sole manipulator of the controls.

I planned a flight from Pontiac to Lansing to get some cross-country time and some more experience in Class C airspace.

The instructor suggested we do some landings at Lansing to get me comfortable with playing in a Class C and to get my night rating back up current. So that is what we did and I had the route prepared. It would prove to be an experience.

I arrived at the airport and started to preflight 88J.

It was a very nice evening with light winds of 5-6 knots out of 260.

Preflight was good and it started fine but during the runup I saw two things:

1. The vacuum system was sucking, or rather not sucking enough and was making both the heading indicator and attitude indicator inoperable.

Ok, you don't need those to fly VFR bit they're certainly nice to have and I'd be happier with them functioning especially on a night flight.

2. Next, the Alternator warning light came on and stayed on.

Losing electrical power and thus all lights, turn coordinator and radios and transponder while flying at night in controlled airspace would really suck.

The instructor based on the other instruments seemed to think the alternator was working and we could try it but he asked "If you were alone, what would you do?"

I stated that two error conditions meant the plane already had two strikes and three would mean we're out, so I would not fly it under those conditions.

He said that showed good judgment and was the right decision so we parked it and got another plane.

By now it was full on dark so the red/white LED flashlight I had brought along was necessary and I used it while flying a fair bit as well, as the instrument panel lighting in the Archer left a bit to be desired at times.

So we got into N8570F and all worked on that plane. Before we took off the instructor noted I could ask Pontiac for flight following so I did cal ground and we got a transponder number and directions to call Detroit departure after we took off. Tower then cleared us for a straight out departure and off we went.

We were soon handed off to Lansing approach and as we were flying a course of 282 they said expect a landing on 28L, which is the really big runway at Lansing.

On the way another plane was also flying at 4,500 in the same general area so Lansing had us descend to 4,000 and instructed the other plane to make no altitude changes without informing them. Flight following can come quite in handy for noise abatement purposes.

As we got closer they then switched us to 28R which is the forlorn little brother to 28L. At 3,600 feet compared to 28L 8,500 it does get lost in the mix, and pilots have apparently sometimes almost landed on 28L'staxiway thinking it was 28L and 28L was 28R, especially as 28R is not as brightly lit as 28L or 24, which would cause an issue later.

So we headed in and landed on 28R. Landing at night was interesting - first off 28R really does seem like the red-headed stepchild of a runway at KLAN, and its not nearly as well nor as brightly lit as the other runways, at all.

But I found it and at night it feels like you're going to land well short of the runway. Adding to the fun is that if you fixate on the numbers during landing at night you will drive the plane right into them, you have to be ready to look down the runway and flare earlier than it feels like you need to. Yes, that first landing was a bit exciting and a little flat-ish but not terrible, but the instructor did mention I would want to flare - NOW. Some people get nervous I guess.

So we did a full stop and did a taxi back along echo and took off again, and then the fun started.

A good takeoff but the lights of 28R were quickly lost in the background as Tower had us really really extend our upwind for traffic, and as we came around I had lost 28R but the instructor saw it and then we turned cross and downwind and then final we saw it nice and lit up and made an excellent approach. Heck it was so beautiful it would be a perfect landing, I mean everything was lined up just right and we were just about to make out the numbers when....

Lansing Tower: "N8570F I show you lined up to land on Runway 24".

Oh family-blog me.

Me: "N8570F is going around". So go around we did. Good thing I'm good at those and have them down pat.

Yep, 24 was lit up brighter than a Christmas tree and drew us like moths to a flame, and with the extended upwind and with 28R by comparison being not readily visible, both the instructor and I thought we were lined up on 28R at the time.

No runway incursion occurred, problem was averted, and it was a good learning experience.

We then did a couple more landings on and takeoffs from 28R and then headed back to Pontiac again with flight following.

A good landing at Pontiac at 27R with winds calm and that was a nice cross-country night flight.

2.0 and 4 night landings.


Murphy's Law said...

Good lessons learned. Keep in mind at KLAN that they are almost always going to put small GA aircraft on 28R, especially at night, because they are a commercial hub for the big boys and the last thing they want on the main runway is a train of freight haulers stacked up behind a dawdling Cessna or Piper. You will almost always get 28R there as a result.

Comrade Misfit said...

Do you have that flashlight on a lanyard and around your neck while night-flying?

Aaron said...

ML: Yes indeed, figured on 28R, hadn't figured on it being completely washed out light wise.

Comrade Misfit: Nope, but that's a good idea. It was in an easily accessible pocket and when used the lanyard was on the wrist to prevent droppage..