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Airplane Flying Handbook
Night Operations

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Airplane Flying Handbook


Table of Contents

Chapter 1,Introduction to Flight Training
Chapter 2,Ground Operations
Chapter 3,Basic Flight Maneuvers
Chapter 4, Slow Flight, Stalls, and Spins
Chapter 5, Takeoff and Departure Climbs
Chapter 6, Ground Reference Maneuvers
Chapter 7, Airport Traffic Patterns
Chapter 8, Approaches and Landings
Chapter 9, Performance Maneuvers
Chapter 10, Night Operations
Chapter 11,Transition to Complex Airplanes
Chapter 12, Transition to Multiengine Airplanes
Chapter 13,Transition to Tailwheel Airplanes
Chapter 14, Transition to Turbo-propeller Powered Airplanes
Chapter 15,Transition to Jet Powered Airplanes
Chapter 16,Emergency Procedures



Although turning on aircraft lights supports the see and
be seen concept, pilots should not become complacent
about keeping a sharp lookout for other aircraft. Most
aircraft lights blend in with the stars or the lights of the
cities at night and go unnoticed unless a conscious
effort is made to distinguish them from other lights.


The lighting systems used for airports, runways,
obstructions, and other visual aids at night are other
important aspects of night flying.

Lighted airports located away from congested areas
can be identified readily at night by the lights outlining
the runways. Airports located near or within large
cities are often difficult to identify in the maze of
lights. It is important not to only know the exact location
of an airport relative to the city, but also to be able
to identify these airports by the characteristics of their
lighting pattern.

Aeronautical lights are designed and installed in a variety
of colors and configurations, each having its own
purpose. Although some lights are used only during
low ceiling and visibility conditions, this discussion
includes only the lights that are fundamental to visual
flight rules (VFR) night operation.

It is recommended that prior to a night flight, and
particularly a cross-country night flight, the pilot check
the availability and status of lighting systems at the
destination airport. This information can be found on
aeronautical charts and in the Airport/Facility
Directory. The status of each facility can be determined
by reviewing pertinent Notices to Airmen

A rotating beacon is used to indicate the location of
most airports. The beacon rotates at a constant speed,
thus producing what appears to be a series of light
flashes at regular intervals. These flashes may be one
or two different colors that are used to identify various
types of landing areas. For example:
• Lighted civilian land airports—alternating white
and green.
• Lighted civilian water airports—alternating
white and yellow.
• Lighted military airports—alternating white and
green, but are differentiated from civil airports
by dual peaked (two quick) white flashes, then

Beacons producing red flashes indicate obstructions or
areas considered hazardous to aerial navigation.
Steady burning red lights are used to mark obstructions
on or near airports and sometimes to supplement
flashing lights on en route obstructions. High intensity
flashing white lights are used to mark some supporting
structures of overhead transmission lines that stretch
across rivers, chasms, and gorges. These high intensity
lights are also used to identify tall structures, such as
chimneys and towers.

As a result of the technological advancements in
aviation, runway lighting systems have become
quite sophisticated to accommodate takeoffs and
landings in various weather conditions. However,
the pilot whose flying is limited to VFR only needs
to be concerned with the following basic lighting of
runways and taxiways.

The basic runway lighting system consists of two
straight parallel lines of runway-edge lights defining
the lateral limits of the runway. These lights are
aviation white, although aviation yellow may be
substituted for a distance of 2,000 feet from the far
end of the runway to indicate a caution zone. At
some airports, the intensity of the runway-edge
lights can be adjusted to satisfy the individual needs
of the pilot. The length limits of the runway are
defined by straight lines of lights across the runway
ends. At some airports, the runway threshold lights
are aviation green, and the runway end lights are
aviation red.

At many airports, the taxiways are also lighted. A taxiway
edge lighting system consists of blue lights that
outline the usable limits of taxi paths.


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

Preparation for a night flight should include a thorough
review of the available weather reports and forecasts
with particular attention given to temperature/dewpoint
spread. A narrow temperature/dewpoint spread may
indicate the possibility of ground fog. Emphasis
should also be placed on wind direction and speed,
since its effect on the airplane cannot be as easily
detected at night as during the day.

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