Orientation and Navigation Orientation and Navigation

   On night flights, pilots should be aware of the importance of being alert and looking for other aircraft. The pilot should be able to recognize the airplane's position relative to other aircraft by the color combination of the other aircraft's position lights.

   Generally, at night it is difficult to see clouds and restrictions to visibility, particularly on dark nights or under an overcast. The pilot flying under visual flight rules (VFR) must exercise caution to avoid flying into clouds or a layer of fog. Usually, the first indication of flying into restricted visibility conditions is the gradual disappearance of lights on the ground. If the lights begin to take on an appearance of being surrounded by a "cotton ball" or glow, the pilot should use caution in attempting further flight in that same direction. Remember that if a descent must be made through any fog, smoke, or haze in order to land, the visibility is considerably less when looking horizontally through the restriction than it is when looking straight down through it from above. Under no circumstances should a VFR night flight be made during poor or marginal weather conditions.

   The practice of maneuvers at night should be conducted within a designated practice area, or at least in an area that is known to be comparatively free from other air traffic. The learning pilot should practice and acquire competency in straight and level flight, straight climbs and descents, level turns, and climbing and descending turns. Recovery from unusual attitudes also should be practiced, but only on dual flights with a competent flight instructor.

   In spite of fewer landmarks or checkpoints, night cross-country flights present no particular problem if preplanning is adequate and the pilot continues to monitor position, time estimates, and fuel consumed.

   Crossing large bodies of water on night flights could be potentially hazardous, not only from the standpoint of landing (ditching) in the water should it become necessary, but also because the horizon may blend in with the water, in which case, control of the airplane becomes difficult. During haze conditions over open water the horizon will become obscure, and may result in loss of spacial orientation. Even on clear nights the stars may be reflected on the water surface, which could appear as a continuous array of lights, thus making the horizon difficult to identify.

   Lighted runways, buildings, or other objects may cause illusions to the pilot when seen from different altitudes. At an altitude of 2,000 feet a group of lights on an object may be seen individually, while at 5,000 feet or higher the same lights could appear to be one solid light mass. These illusions may become quite acute with altitude changes and if not overcome could present problems in respect to approaches to lighted runways.