CHAPTER 12. Night Operations

Preparation and Prefl ight

Night fl ying requires that pilots be aware of and operate within their abilities and limitations. Although careful planning of any fl ight is essential, night fl ying demands more attention to the details of prefl ight preparation and planning.

Preparation for a night fl ight should include a thorough review of the available weather reports and forecasts with particular attention given to temperature-dew point spread. A narrow temperature-dew point spread may indicate the possibility of ground fog. Emphasis should also be placed on wind direction and speed, since wind effects on the aircraft cannot be as easily detected at night as during the day.

On night cross-country fl ights, appropriate aeronautical charts should be selected, including the appropriate adjacent charts. Course lines should be drawn in black to be more distinguishable.

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 traffi c all provide excellent visual checkpoints. The use of a GPS with a lighted screen adds signifi cantly to the safety and effi ciency of night fl ying.

All personal equipment should be checked prior to fl ight to ensure proper functioning. It is very disconcerting to fi nd at the time of need that a fl ashlight does not work.

All aircraft lights should be turned on momentarily and checked for operation. Position lights can be checked for loose connections by tapping the light fi xture. If the lights blink while being tapped, further investigation to determine the cause should be made prior to fl ight.

The parking ramp should be examined prior to entering the aircraft. During the day, it is quite easy to see stepladders, chuckholes, wheel chocks, and other obstructions, but at night it is more diffi cult. A check of the area can prevent taxiing mishaps.

Starting, Taxiing, and Runup

After the pilot is seated in the fl ight deck and prior to starting the engine, all items and materials to be used on the fl ight should be arranged in such a manner that they will be readily available and convenient to use.

Extra caution should be taken at night to assure the propeller area is clear. Turning the rotating beacon on or fl ashing the aircraft position lights serves to alert persons nearby to remain clear of the propeller. To avoid excessive drain of electrical current from the battery, it is recommended that unnecessary electrical equipment be turned off until after the engine has been started.

After starting and before taxiing, the taxi or landing light should be turned on. Continuous use of the landing light with revolutions per minute (rpm) power settings normally used for taxiing may place an excessive drain on the aircraft’s electrical system. Also, overheating of the landing light could become a problem because of inadequate airfl ow to carry the heat away. Landing lights should be used as necessary while taxiing. When using landing lights, consideration should be given to not blinding other pilots. Taxi slowly, particularly in congested areas. If taxi lines are painted on the ramp or taxiway, these lines should be followed to ensure a proper path along the route.

The before takeoff and runup should be performed using the checklist. During the day, forward movement of the aircraft can be detected easily. At night, the aircraft could creep forward without being noticed unless the pilot is alert for this possibility. Hold or lock the brakes during the runup and be alert for any forward movement. [Figure 12-8]

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