While flying at night is challenging due to the many illusions that make it difficult to judge distance and movement, the rewards are many. I will want to gain a lot more experience before I fly long distances at night or go to unfamiliar airports for night landings but I look forward to doing so.
On this flight I gained experience using navigational radio beacons called VOR Tracking, GPS Navigation, and my ForeFlight GPS tracking with a Stratus2 receiver. I will build on all these experiences in the future to gain confidence and skill.
Along with all the illusions, see links for details, there is also a lot to learn to fly safely at night. For example you have to concentrate a lot more on your instruments and learn to rely on them instead of what your body is telling you in reference to altitude, whether your level or turning, and where the horizon is. You can only see lights, everything else is blackness, it could be an unlit area or it could be a mountain or some other unlit obstruction, or clouds. Also if you lose an engine choosing where to land isn’t easy. Anything dark could be a field or trees! Avoiding obstacles also takes a lot more care.
For example, there is higher terrain on the far side of the airport went to. I learned that unless you are very familiar with the airport and the surrounding area it can be unsafe to overfly an airport and then do a normal descending turn to enter the pattern. Also the airport is very difficult to find at night among all the other lights, if you take your eye off the runway lights you can have trouble finding it again as you overfly and descend. Therefore, I learned to approach the airport at a higher altitude, spot it, then descend to 2000 ft above the pattern altitude, in this case 3,700 ft and spiral down in a rectangle mimicking the pattern until you reach the altitude where you execute a normal landing procedure. That way you don’t lose sight of the airport or risk hitting obstructions or high terrain.
Preflight and Taxi
Takeoff from Westminster, Md Carroll County Regional Airport.
The lights of Frederick, Md; looking down on the city from 4,500 ft MSL
The racetrack at Charles Town, WV.
Winchester, VA city lights.
Spiral pattern from 3,500 to 1,700 to begin landing sequence.
Winchester Regional Airport, Runway 32 comes into view. I do two landings and takeoffs before heading back to Westminster.
Return to Carroll County Regional Airport.