Night flying requires that pilots have a complete realization of their abilities and limitations, and observe more caution than during day operations. Although careful planning of any flight is essential for maximum safety and efficiency, night flying demands more attention to all details of preflight preparation and planning.
Preparation for a night flight should include a thorough study of the available weather reports and forecasts, with particular attention given to temperature/dewpoint spread because of the possibility of formation of ground fog during the night flight. Also, emphasis should be placed on awareness of wind direction and speed, since drifting cannot be detected as readily at night as during the day.
On night cross-country flights, pertinent aeronautical charts should be selected, including the appropriate adjacent charts. Course lines should be drawn in black so as to be more distinguishable, and direction, distances, and time estimates accurately recorded. Aeronautical charts should be folded and systematically arranged prior to flight in a manner that they will be convenient to use in the cockpit.
Prominently lighted checkpoints along the prepared course should be noted. Rotating beacons at airports, lighted obstructions, lights of cities or towns, and lights from major highway traffic all provide excellent visual checkpoints. The use of radio navigation aids and communication facilities add significantly to the safety and efficiency of the night flight and should be considered in preflight planning.
All personal equipment should be checked prior to flight to ensure proper functioning. It is very disconcerting to find, at the time of need, that a flashlight for example, doesn't work.
A thorough preflight check of the airplane, and a review of its systems and emergency procedures, is of particular importance for night operations. Since each airplane has its own checklist, it is not intended in this chapter to cover all the specific points. However, there are some general areas, in addition to those involved on all flights, that should be included on the night preflight check.
All airplane lights should be turned "on" momentarily and checked for operation. Position lights can be checked for loose connections by tapping the light fixture while the light is "on." If the lights blink while being "tapped" further investigation to determine the cause should be initiated.
The parking ramp should be examined prior to entering the airplane. During the day it is quite easy to see stepladders, chuckholes, stray wheel chocks, and other obstructions, but at night it is more difficult, and a check of the area can prevent taxiing mishaps.