|CHAPTER 12. Night Operations
Approaches and Landings
When approaching the airport to enter the traffi c pattern and land, it is important that the runway lights and other airport lighting be identifi ed as early as possible. If the airport layout is unfamiliar to the pilot, sighting of the runway may be diffi cult until very close-in due to the maze of lights observed in the area. [Figure 12-12] The pilot should fl y toward the rotating beacon until the lights outlining the runway are distinguishable. To fl y a traffi c pattern of proper size and direction, the runway threshold and runway-edge lights must be positively identifi ed. Once the airport lights are seen, these lights should be kept in sight throughout the approach.
Distance may be deceptive at night due to limited lighting conditions. A lack of intervening references on the ground and the inability of the pilot to compare the size and location of different ground objects cause this. This also applies to the estimation of altitude and speed. Consequently, more dependence must be placed on fl ight instruments, particularly the altimeter and the airspeed indicator.
When entering the traffi c pattern, allow for plenty of time to complete the before landing checklist. If the heading indicator contains a heading bug, setting it to the runway heading is an excellent reference for the pattern legs.
Every effort should be made to maintain the recommended airspeeds and execute the approach and landing in the same manner as during the day. A low, shallow approach is defi nitely inappropriate during a night operation. The altimeter and VSI should be constantly cross-checked against the aircraft’s position along the base leg and fi nal approach. A visual approach slope indicator (VASI) is an indispensable aid in alerting a pilot of too low of a glidepath. The typical VASI is set to 3° for the recommended aircraft approach. This 19 to 1 glide ratio is too low for a WSC aircraft. A normal glide ratio for WSC aircraft is 5 to 1, which is 11°, much higher than the normal 3° to 4° used by aircraft. Therefore, for WSC VASI fi nal approaches both white lights should be visible. If a pilot sees red over white, or especially both reds, the approach is too low and altitude should be gained, or at least maintained to get above the normal VASI 3° to 4° approach at night. This steeper approach allows the WSC aircraft to glide to the runway and land safely in the event of engine failure. [Figure 12-13]
After turning onto the fi nal approach and aligning the aircraft midway between the two rows of runway-edge lights, the pilot should note and correct for any wind drift. Throughout the final approach, pitch and power should be used to maintain a stabilized approach. Usually, halfway through the fi nal approach, the landing light should be turned on. Earlier use of the landing light may be necessary because of “Operation Lights On” or for local traffi c considerations. The landing light is sometimes ineffective since the light beam usually does not reach the ground from higher altitudes. The light may even be refl ected back into the pilot’s eyes by any existing haze, smoke, or fog. This disadvantage is overshadowed by the safety considerations provided by using the “Operation Lights On” procedure around other traffi c.
The approach and landings should be made in the same manner as in day landings as discussed in Chapter 11, Approaches and Landings. At night, the judgment of height, speed, and sink rate is impaired by the scarcity of observable objects in the landing area. The inexperienced pilot may have a tendency to round out too high until attaining familiarity with the proper height for the correct roundout. To aid in night landings, approach with power on to reduce the descent rate providing more time for the pilot to see the runway and start the roundout once the runway is visible. To aid in determining the proper roundout point, continue a constant approach descent until the landing lights refl ect on the runway and tire marks on the runway can be clearly seen. At this point, the roundout should be started smoothly and the throttle gradually reduced to idle as the aircraft is touching down. [Figure 12-14] During landings without the use of landing lights, the roundout may be started when the runway lights at the far end of the runway fi rst appear to be rising higher than the nose of the aircraft. This demands a smooth and very timely roundout, and requires that the pilot feel for the runway surface using power and pitch changes, as necessary, for the aircraft to settle slowly to the runway. Blackout landings should always be included in night pilot training as an emergency procedure.
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