Thursday, July 27, 2006

First Night Flight

Wow.. its been a long spell since I've written something down.. well better late than never !!

Time sure does fly by fast, doesn't it? I'm now up to 15.7 hrs of flying (dual) and that now includes the 1.2 hrs of night flight I did yesterday.. Since my last update I've done some slow flight, stalls (power off, power on) and some emergency procedures.

Stalls are an interesting beast. The controls just go mush mush.. very little control. Glad had my ground lessons covered so everything in the cockpit at that point made sense. Recovery from a stall is particularly fun :) Emergency procedures on the other hand require a lot more presence of mind (something I definitely have to work on). I was reading an article recently in AOPA flight training magzine and it talked about emergencies. The advice the columnist gave was to treat every practice emergency landing as if it were the real thing. And boy, does it make a difference. If you really tell your mind that the engine is out, you feel the pressure of the situation. I hope I can train good enough for emergencies so that if (god forbid) one happens, I'll be reacting to it as cool as ice.

Well so much for the routine stuff, now for the fun part. The first night flight I had yesterday:

I reached the school at around 8:10. The sunset was around 8:15. So I still had enough light to do the preflight checklist without a light. Everything was normal, although it was hot and humid like crazy. The density altitude was 1900 ft (field elevation is 173 ft). There was also quite some fog but visibility was P6SM. After my preflight I waited for my instructor and went over the procedures in my head. I guess the instructor was waiting for it to get dark outside.

Well, with sufficient darkness outside, we adjusted the lights started the engines and then started off with the routine chores. While I am getting better at taxiing, I still need quite some work (most importantly speed control).

We got assigned rwy 22 for dep, so we taxied to it, did engine run up, departure briefing etc and then called up tower for clearance. With no activity around the airport, clearance was immediate. So off we go into the mysterious night skies.

My take off was ok (need to maintain Vy more closely from start on). I think my rudder work on departure is much better now. After leaving the tower's frequency we switched over to NY approach and my instructor requested flight following (a big help given the haze outside). Everything looks so different at night. The lakes and fields are all dark, cities shine up like crystal balls. Surprisingly the runway isn't as bright as I thought it would appear.

Once we were in practice area, we went over the routine stuff, stalls, slow flight, steep turns. Then my instructor asked me to recover from unusal attitudes. I think my past experience with MS Flight sim helped me there quite a bit. I was right on the instruments figuring out what attitude we were in and correcting for it. Not once did I look out to feel what our attitude was. So I have to say I was quite proud of it..

Overall I think I did much better yesterday than the flight before when I was basically screwing up everything. After an hour of practicing stuff, we entered KCDW airspace, prepared ourselves for landing and requested tower clearance. I was scanning around trying to get a feel for what night flight is about and frankly it felt like starting all over again.. All visual cues are so different.

We were cleared to enter right base for 22 and getting down I used the PAPI. Came down centered on PAPI pretty much all the way down. The landing yesterdy in particular was quite smooth. Maybe its the night effect, or maybe I am getting a bit better, but the net effect was oh so fun !!!

So after a really enjoyable flight we were back on the dim lit ramp. I am sure I'll never forget the first day I flew, but I am equally sure that I'll never ever forget my first night flight.

Blue skies.

Dual FT for this flight: 1.2 hrs


Prabhakar Karve said...

Really amod when i was reading your blog,i felt as if i am there only.You are very good in expressing your experiences.keep it up.
thnx for updating your blog.God bless you.

Euan Kilgour said...

Taking on night flying so early in your training, like wow! I have been for a couple of flights at night but never at the controls. It's an interesting mix of visual and instrument flying and yes the cues are totally different. Reading your experience it seems you are a natural at it. Keep it up!