Although night flying is very little different from day flying, it does demand more attention of the pilot. The most impressive difference is the limited availability of outside visual references. Therefore, the flight instruments should be used to a greater degree in controlling the airplane. This is particularly true on night takeoffs and departure climbs. The cockpit lights should be adjusted to a minimum brightness that will allow the pilot to read the instruments and switches and yet not hinder the pilot's outside vision. This also will eliminate light reflections on the windshield and windows.
Before taxiing onto an active runway for takeoff, the pilot should exercise extreme caution to prevent conflict with other aircraft. Even at controlled airports where the control tower issues the clearance for takeoff, it is recommended that the pilot check the final approach course for approaching aircraft. At uncontrolled airports, it is recommended that a slow 360 degree turn be made in the same direction as the flow of air traffic while closely searching for other aircraft in the vicinity.
After ensuring that the final approach and runway are clear of other air traffic, the airplane should be lined up with the centerline of the runway. If the runway has no painted centerline, the pilot can use the runway lighting and align the airplane midway between and parallel to the two rows of runway edge lights. After the airplane is aligned, the heading indicator should be noted or set to correspond to the known runway direction. To begin the takeoff, the brakes should be released and the throttle smoothly advanced to takeoff power. As the airplane accelerates, it should be kept moving between and parallel to the runway edge lights. This can best be done by looking at the more distant runway lights rather than those close in and to the side.
The technique for night takeoffs is the same as for normal daytime takeoffs, but the flight instruments should be monitored more closely. As the airspeed reaches the normal liftoff speed, the pitch attitude should be adjusted to that which will establish a normal climb by referring to both outside visual references such as lights, and to the attitude indicator. The airplane should not be forcibly pulled off the ground; it is best to let it fly off in the liftoff attitude while cross checking the attitude indicator against any outside visual references that may be available.
After becoming airborne, the darkness of night often makes it difficult to note whether the airplane is getting closer to or farther from the surface. It is extremely important, then, to ensure that the airplane continues in a positive climb and does not settle back to the runway. This can be accomplished by ensuring that there is a climb rate on the vertical speed indicator and a gradual but continual increase in the altimeter indication (Fig. 14-4). It is also important to note that the airspeed is well above the stall speed and that it continues to accelerate.
Necessary pitch adjustments to establish a stabilized climb should be made with reference to the attitude indicator. At the same time the wings should be checked for a level attitude using the attitude indicator and the heading indicator. It is recommended that no turn be made until reaching a safe maneuvering altitude.
Although the use of the landing lights provides help during the takeoff roll, they become ineffective after the airplane has climbed to an altitude where the light beam no longer extends to the surface. The light can also be deceptive when it is reflected by haze, smoke, or fog that might exist in the takeoff climb. Therefore, if the landing light is used for the takeoff roll, it may be turned off after the climb is well established.