Landing Approaches and Landings Landing Approaches and Landings

   When arriving at the airport to enter the traffic pattern and land, it is important that the runway lights and other airport lighting be identified as early as possible. If the airport layout is unfamiliar to the pilot, sighting of the runway may be difficult until very close in due to the maze of lights observed in the area (Fig. 14-5). The pilot should, therefore, fly towards the airport beacon light until the lights outlining the runway are distinguishable. To fly a traffic pattern of the proper size and direction when there is little to see but a group of lights, the runway threshold and runway edge lights must be positively identified. Once seen, the approach threshold lights should be kept in sight throughout the airport traffic pattern and approach.

   Distance may be deceptive at night due to limited lighting conditions, lack of intervening references on the ground, and the inability of the pilot to compare the size and location of different ground objects. This also applies to the estimation of altitude and speed. Consequently, more dependence must be placed on flight instruments, particularly the altimeter and the airspeed indicator.

   Inexperienced pilots often have a tendency to make approaches and landings at night with excessive airspeed. Every effort should be made to execute the approach and landing in the same manner as during the day. A low, shallow, approach is definitely inappropriate during a night operation. The altimeter and vertical speed indicator should be constantly cross checked against the airplane's position along the base leg and final approach.
After turning onto the final approach and aligning the airplane midway between the two rows of runway edge lights, the pilot should note and correct for any wind drift. Throughout the final approach, power should be used with coordinated pitch changes to provide positive control of the airplane, enabling the pilot to accurately adjust airspeed and descent angle. Where a Visual Approach Slope Indicator is installed, it is helpful in maintaining the proper approach angle (Fig. 14-6). Usually, when approximately
halfway along the final approach, the landing light should be turned on. Earlier use of the landing light may be ineffective since the light's beam will usually not reach the ground from higher altitudes, and may be reflected back into the pilot's eyes by any existing haze, smoke, or fog. However, this disadvantage may be overshadowed by the safety advantage provided by using the "Operation Lights On" procedure in the terminal area.
The roundout and touchdown should be made in the same manner as in day landings. Judgment of height, speed, and sink rate is impaired, however, by the scarcity of observable objects in the landing area. 

The inexperienced pilot may have a tendency to roundout too high until attaining familiarity with the apparent height for the correct roundout position. 

To aid in determining the proper roundout point, it may be well to continue a constant approach descent until the landing light reflects on the runway, and tire marks on the runway, or runway expansion joints, can be seen clearly (Fig. 14-7). At that point the roundout for touchdown should be started smoothly and the throttle gradually reduced to idle as the airplane is touching down. 

During landings without the use of landing lights or where marks on the runway are indiscernible, the roundout may be started when the runway lights at the far end of the runway first appear to be rising higher than the airplane. This, of course, demands a smooth and very timely roundout, and requires, in effect, that the pilot "feel" for the runway surface, using power and pitch changes as necessary for the airplane to settle softly on the runway.