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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



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. To ensure the
airplane continues in a positive climb, be sure a climb
is indicated on the attitude indicator, vertical speed
indicator (VSI), and altimeter. It is also important to
ensure the airspeed is at best climb speed.

Necessary pitch and bank adjustments should be made
by referencing the attitude and heading indicators. It is
recommended that turns not be made until reaching a
safe maneuvering altitude.

Although the use of the landing lights provides help
during the takeoff, they become ineffective after the
airplane has climbed to an altitude where the light
beam no longer extends to the surface. The light can
cause distortion when it is reflected by haze, smoke, or
fog that might exist in the climb. Therefore, when the
landing light is used for the takeoff, it may be turned
off after the climb is well established provided other
traffic in the area does not require its use for collision


Generally, at night it is difficult to see clouds and
restrictions to visibility, particularly on dark nights or
under overcast. The pilot flying under VFR must exercise
caution to avoid flying into clouds or a layer of
fog. Usually, the first indication of flying into restricted
visibility conditions is the gradual disappearance of
lights on the ground. If the lights begin to take on an
appearance of being surrounded by a halo or glow, the
pilot should use caution in attempting further flight in
that same direction. Such a halo or glow around lights
on the ground is indicative of ground fog. Remember
that if a descent must be made through fog, smoke, or
haze in order to land, the horizontal visibility is considerably
less when looking through the restriction than it
is when looking straight down through it from above.
Under no circumstances should a VFR night-flight be
made during poor or marginal weather conditions
unless both the pilot and aircraft are certificated and
equipped for flight under instrument flight rules (IFR).

The pilot should practice and acquire competency in
straight-and-level flight, climbs and descents, level
turns, climbing and descending turns, and steep turns.
Recovery from unusual attitudes should also be practiced,
but only on dual flights with a flight instructor.
The pilot should also practice these maneuvers with all
the cockpit lights turned OFF. This blackout training is
necessary if the pilot experiences an electrical or
instrument light failure. Training should also include
using the navigation equipment and local NAVAIDs.

In spite of fewer references or checkpoints, night cross-country
flights do not present particular problems if
preplanning is adequate, and the pilot continues to
monitor position, time estimates, and fuel consumed.
NAVAIDs, if available, should be used to assist in
monitoring en route progress.

Crossing large bodies of water at night in single engine
airplanes could be potentially hazardous, not
only from the standpoint of landing (ditching) in the
water, but also because with little or no lighting the
horizon blends with the water, in which case, depth
perception and orientation become difficult. During
poor visibility conditions over water, the horizon will
become obscure, and may result in a loss of orientation.
Even on clear nights, the stars may be reflected
on the water surface, which could appear as a continuous
array of lights, thus making the horizon difficult
to identify.

Lighted runways, buildings, or other objects may
cause illusions to the pilot when seen from different
altitudes. At an altitude of 2,000 feet, a group of lights
on an object may be seen individually, while at 5,000
feet or higher, the same lights could appear to be one
solid light mass. These illusions may become quite
acute with altitude changes and if not overcome could
present problems in respect to approaches to lighted


When approaching the airport to enter the traffic pattern
and land, it is important that the runway lights
and other airport lighting be identified as early as
possible. If the airport layout is unfamiliar to the
pilot, sighting of the runway may be difficult until
very close-in due to the maze of lights observed in
the area. [Figure 10-4] The pilot should fly toward
the rotating beacon until the lights outlining the runway
are distinguishable. To fly a traffic pattern of
proper size and direction, the runway threshold and
runway-edge lights must be positively identified.
Once the airport lights are seen, these lights should
be kept in sight throughout the approach.

Use light patterns for orientation.
Figure 10-4. Use light patterns for orientation.