First Solo Night Cross Country

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Sinistar, Oct 24, 2018.

  1. Sinistar

    Sinistar Cleared for Takeoff

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    I just did my first real solo night flight after training.

    Our plane just got out annual last week. I did a few hops around the airport after pulling it out of his hangar and then a I did a 150 mile daytime cross country to just fly and make sure all was good.

    Fast forward to last night - a perfect time to try this first solo night flight. Winds calm. Nice temp/dew-point spread, no clouds or fog and a full moon. So I planned a 185 mile night cross country. I landed a uncontrolled airport, two Deltas and back to our uncontrolled airport.
    I took off after civil twilight and landed about 2.2hrs later. Even though I was tired afterwards, this night flight was all done and back home before 10pm :) So there's a advantage to fall/winter flying:

    So lessons learned:

    1. Budget another 10 minutes or so to get ready for the night flight. Mainly for lights/gadgets. I usually place one red LED light on my harness and I use one of these tiny LED lights clipped onto my headset. Like a mic light but cheaper and better but takes time to get it just right.
    2. Don't mix go pros and a first solo night cross country together. The other part of the extended pre-flight was setting up the cameras and making sure everything was working. Well, matching settings and formatting flash cards takes a while. And then I find out the smart remote is dead. So I plug it into our cig lighter...
    3. Don't just assume you can plug anything into the cig lighter with no ill effects. Now I have always charged my android tablet in flight from the cig lighter and no side effects. But this little wrist sized go pro remote. Well, it wreaked havoc for the radios. Since nobody was out flying in our area last night the Unicom was dead quiet. Dead quiet means I hadn't heard anyone on the radio until well after takeoff. So I switch to approach for FF. Each time he talks the squelch stays broken for like 10 seconds. I can hardly understand him. I just about key my mic to say: "Hey center are you having radio problems...". I think again..IDIOT..its not him...ITS ME! If it was him everyone would be complaining. So I take a few seconds and think: what has changed??? This little remote thing being charged? Yank it. That wonderful old KX155 radio is back (I love the sound of KX155's). So for my first time I have experienced some nasty radio noise from a cheapo USB gadget.
    4. Where do I emergency land!!! I couldn't help but notice how during the day I am naturally looking for spots and now, within minutes, all by myself - no instructor - finding a spot to land has become pretty eerie. Actually I start thinking my best bet is to just go for water so I don't hurt anyone else. And water to my east is totally lit up by the moon so easy to see. I really need to think more about a night emergency landing and how to pick a place...if there is even a way. Once we have snow cover (my last real night flights with the CFI) it just seems so much easier to see options.
    5. I kind of like that busy FF radio chatter. It is so peaceful at night. However, knowing center can talk to you at any time does keep you rather awake and alert. And listening to other advisories always helps fill in the picture.
    6. How did people fly at night without GPS?? Seriously, down around the Twin Cities it is lights everywhere. I should make myself do a night cross country without GPS just once - I bet I would learn so much.
    7. Really big runways at night wreak havoc with me. One runway was at least 100ft wide and 7000ft long. I swear I flared about 5 ft high. My eye just jumps to that landing light location on these larger runways.
    8. I actually did really good on speeds during landing. Previous short night flights taught me that I am likely to fly it a bit slower than normal. So I was watching this like a hawk and I think that really helped out a lot.
    9. I should have been more proactive regarding pattern altitudes and the ideal altitude turning base to final. I know its easy to just say "Be 500agl as you turn base to final. But when a pattern is like 923ft and things are moving fast it takes an extra second. Next time I am going to write down TPA and the base/final altimeter value. I think that will make me stick to it and strive for it because during the day we can see the ground and go a bit by feel. But not at night, at least not for me.
    10. Parallel runways and night could really trip up a person. So I have already bumbled a wrong runway at this same airport so I know what to expect. But I could see someone landing for the first time really getting this wrong. The first thing you see is a ILS all lit up beautifully and this nice long, wide runway. But my assignment is the tiny one just left of it and it starts over 1500ft farther down, narrow, etc. I wonder how many people at night would not even see the small one as its so easy to focus on the big one. I think it was a good experience for when I land at night at a new-to-me airport with parallels. I would be mostly likely to received the smaller runway.
    11. Having runway extended centerlines is nice (see above).
    12. I completely botched airport entries on the base leg. For both Deltas I was asked to enter on the base. I just felt the airport was so close so I flew it out farther. Only to realize I am really flying like a weird, arcing 45 degree'ish to the runway. In this case I needed to trust the tablet more and just aim for an exact 1 mile base instead of getting so fixated on the sea of lights and trying to see the runway end lights.
    13. Forgot to close the cowl flaps on my final leg home. It still pretty warm up at altitude (above freezing) but that's a rookie mistake. It is so dark in the plane I can't even see the knob.
    14. Some tablet settings can really be bad. So I have automatic safe taxi turned on. But the tablet thinks I am done flying below a certain speed - but the plane is still flying :) And So am I! So all of a sudden, just as I cross the numbers and flair the safe taxi diagram comes up. Its a white background and so bright. So I just tell myself "Do not 'f with it and land." You can be that setting will be turned off tonight when I have time to review things.
    15. Now for a Garmin Pilot "I hate that moment." I am probably one of the few who fly with a non 4G tablet. So I have no data available once I leave the house or FBO. And our tiny airport building doesn't have WIFI. Back at home before I left I opened it up to make sure it was charged. Good. Lets go. Now fast forward to the actual flight. I start up the plane. While its warming up the iPad Mini 4 starts up and running GP. I then start the android (it will be my backup). It stops on the screen saying it needs to download 37MB to complete an update. #%^%$^^ - If you are reading this Garmin...do not do this. There is no way to overcome this screen. So that tablet was useless. So my phone was my backup (at least you can have it 3 places now instead of 2...probably because of this. I almost called my flight because of this! But I had VOR's, FF and a backup.
    16. I was cleared into the Bravo once and denied the other time. No big deal but being cleared in does let me fly higher over the city which I would have preferred. For example, with Bravo entry I was allowed 5500 but without it I was at 3900 (100ft under) and I was asked to go down to 3500.
    17. I am very glad that I forced myself to commit to FF and getting comfortable with Bravo transitions early after getting my license. They are super helpful and until about 10miles from the destination, they are tracking you.
    18. During the flight I wasn't as tired I thought I would be. But when I got home my brain was fried and I feel asleep in the chair.
    19. I was always watching the horizon, trying to get a feel for where it was obvious and not obvious. With this much city around it wasn't bad but when I flew home, away from the Twin Cities and away from the moonlight there were a lot less farm lights and city lights for a reference.
    20. I am also working on flying with my CFI at night and would have this night but schedules didn't work. But I knew I had the skills and everything was working so it was time to learn instead of contemplate.
    21. Oh yeah, Chinook Helicopters hovering near the runway look pretty cool at night :)
    22. The gopro footage looks okay, but more grainy than I expected (bummer). I think for great night video a person should use a DSLR with a f1.8 or f1.4 lens. I'll try that another time when I am riding along.
    23. Being a dad and married, I really liking the idea of the In-Reach with some automated tracking. My goal was to text my wife at each stop but I forgot one. Since each leg wasn't really that long it didn't matter. But something automated sure would be nice.
    24. The tach time was about 2.2 hours and I burned about 23 gallons so not too bad for over 2hrs of night flight in the 182 with full stops everywhere to also get night passenger current.
    25. Next step for me is to knock out a night time 100 mile leg or maybe even a 150 mile leg night cross country. And maybe fly away from the city where it is more dark. Depends on weather.
     
  2. SoCal RV Flyer

    SoCal RV Flyer Pattern Altitude

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    Love the smooth air at night. Some of my best landings have been in the dark...a combination of that smoothness and really concentrating on the flare. But yes, very easy to flare too high!

    My first night x-country was to Banning, which sits between two inky-black mountain ranges. Especially inky that night, as there was next to no moonlight.
    So spooky when you can't see them. Fortunately, plenty of lights directly beneath, Interstate 10, etc., and I had my instructor with me.
     
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  3. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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  4. Skates97

    Skates97 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Mine was just past there to Thermal, I thought it would be cool to land below sea level. The altimeter stopped at zero...

    I love flying at night, but I try to make sure I am somewhere that I can see some kind of lights below, the LA Basin is perfect for it. I am not to where I will fly across the empty desert at night with no visual references of any kind yet.
     
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  5. idahoflier

    idahoflier Pre-takeoff checklist

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    That right there is why I rarely fly at night...
     
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  6. KaiGywer

    KaiGywer Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Head west towards North Dakota ;)

    YOLO
     
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  7. WannFly

    WannFly En-Route

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  8. champ driver

    champ driver Line Up and Wait

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    Just curious as to where you went for your stops.
    6. We used a combination of dead reckoning, pilotage and VOR, no GPS.
    My first dual xc was from Anoka County to Eau Claire, to St Paul and back.

    Congratulations, another step in skills and experience, the weather's been nice the last two nights.
     
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  9. Sinistar

    Sinistar Cleared for Takeoff

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    Yes, definitely cashed in on the nice wx!

    Since I was all by myself I wanted to keep close to the Twin Cities. So it was my home base (GYL) to Princeton (PNM) to St.Cloud (STC) then back south to Flying Cloud (FCM) then back to Glencoe area where I also flew around a bit.

    Pulled FF in the air on the first leg. None on the short hop to STC. Then FF via tower out of STC (didn't know they could!) ... Chinook was out there. Was hoping for Bravo transition from STC to FCM but nada. Then FF and Bravo from FCM back home. So nothing crazy but a nice mix.

    I could have used VOR to STC and VOR/DME to FCM. Nothing where we are but GPS but I do know radial off of FCM.
     
  10. Hank S

    Hank S En-Route

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    WDE.

    My first long night XC was coming home from my second really long XC, ~385nm at Thanksgiving. Left the grass strip in the afternoon, then it git dark somewhere enroute. Was surprised by the college football TFR at home, but ATC vectored me right over the field. No problem, my wife even enjoyed it. Really made her a fan of flying--3 smooth hours vs. 9-10 hour drive across the Appalachians, no security hassles, etc.
     
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  11. Cici

    Cici Pre-Flight

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    You can always ask to fly a "practice approach" if you think finding the correct runway will be difficult. I like to have the beacon in sight about 20 miles out. Admittedly, a bit more difficult in the big city.

    I was trying to knock out my 250 nm one way leg the other night during the middle of the night. My worry, fuel. I flew about half way and found a fuel stop with 24 hour fuel. I didn't feel like going the rest of the way, so I hopped across airports every 30 miles or so for a quick T&G. But, I have my airport that is supposed to have 24 hour SS and is exactly 251 nm's away. I'm looking to fly it this weekend.

    I'm surprised the garmin version doesn't have night time mode for the airport diagrams. Foreflight on ipads seem to do it...I turn that brightness all the way down and on partial moon nights I can pick out houses and have no worries about putting it in a field.

    Welcome to the "night" club. Surely, extra caution and different personal minimums should be exercised, but some excellent flying I would hate to miss out on being scared of it.
     
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  12. woodchucker

    woodchucker Line Up and Wait

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    Way back in the day they used the stars for guidance.

    While I enjoy flying at night it’s not my preference. But I think it’s a good idea to keep night currency because you never know when you might need it.
     
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  13. deyoung

    deyoung Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I've flown through that pass at night. Didn't land there, but flew over the airport. Having done it during the day on the way in, I knew where the mountains were, but not being able to see them was a bit nervous-making (and educational). I stayed right over the freeway until Palm Springs, figuring that if there was a highway right under me then I wasn't likely to fly into anything. :)
     
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  14. deyoung

    deyoung Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I had that conversation with my instructor, after noting that (especially in the desert southwest) at night there is absolutely nothing to see about the ground at night. She gave me the classic sage advice... "when you think you're getting low enough, turn on the landing light. If you don't like what you see... turn it off." :) Really though, that is a big reason why night flying is very much not the same as day, fun though it is when all is going well.

    https://sometimes-interesting.com/2013/12/04/concrete-arrows-and-the-u-s-airmail-beacon-system/

    :)

    Also, VORs and airways, pay attention to minimum altitudes. Sounds like a great flight overall!

    I like night flying, except for that nagging "where would I land if I had to, I can't see anything" worry. In most cases, I think I would head for a freeway and gamble with the traffic.
     
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  15. mscard88

    mscard88 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    TLDR

    You taking Nate’s place?
     
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  16. tawood

    tawood Pattern Altitude

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    WTF?
     
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  17. Rushie

    Rushie Pattern Altitude

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    Emergency night landing my instructor said, "There are different kinds of dark. That one is trees. That one is field." I sorta saw what he meant but not really.
     
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  18. tawood

    tawood Pattern Altitude

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    I've done about 30% of my flying over the years at night (with my schedule it is easier to make time for a night flight, plus from November to February, it gets dark here at about 5pm). During the day, I routinely say to myself, "Bet I could land there if the engine quit, or there, or there..." At night, I think you have two choices: go for the lit area, or go for the dark area. Lit areas tend to have light poles, utility wires, and people. Dark areas tend to have water, trees, and no people. I'm still not comfortable choosing either.
     
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  19. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Way Too Long Didn’t Even Consider Reading.
     
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  20. mscard88

    mscard88 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Too Long Didn’t Read
     
  21. Hang 4

    Hang 4 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I enjoyed reading it. Much prefer posts about actually flying vs hypothetical arguments about FAA regs...
     
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  22. BrianNC

    BrianNC Pattern Altitude

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    Same here. It was a good read.
     
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  23. chemgeek

    chemgeek Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Nice post. It's fun to expand your horizons. Flying at night is usually very nice, as daytime heating turbulence dissipates. There is some elevated risk in terms of emergency procedure visibility and risks associated with losing electrical power, but these are manageable if your aircraft is well-maintained, and you are prepared for emergencies (i.e. you carry redundant cockpit lighting, backup nav and com).
     
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  24. benyflyguy

    benyflyguy Line Up and Wait

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    Great post. What was your altitude? I usually don’t fly necessiarly high or low during day-whatever winds and is reasonable for weather and my flight time. At night..especially over wooded areas like upstate PA and NY, I like to get high..so high(lol). 9-10k for a longer flight if it makes sense (I too flight a 182) Altitude will be a friend in an emergency. With one engine at night a small problem can get away from ya fast. It doesn’t stop me from going I just keep my head in the game and plan. I’m Finishing up my instrument training so I haven’t done any night time hard IMC and will probably be awhile after I get my feet thst my personal mins would allow for that. But I also like to always load the approach for situational awareness when getting set up to land into the 430 at night.
     
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  25. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Just wait until you get to airports like the ones we call “black holes” here in the Southwest US.

    For those, it’s nice to have instrument skills.
     
  26. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard Pre-takeoff checklist

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    If you find yourself facing an emergency landing at night, turn on your landing light.

    If you like what you see, leave it on.

    If you don’t, turn it off.
     
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  27. WannFly

    WannFly En-Route

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    Something that’s rare on POA
     
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  28. vman

    vman Pre-takeoff checklist

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    my first long night flight was also a maxing out range deal that was nerve wracking in the last part in itself, the numbers were all good ...but

    then i couldn't get the runway lights on,o_O so ended up trying a few approaches (knew the strip) with the plane landing light only (first time) hoping it might work,:confused: sure wasn't interested much.. in extending any further to an alternate...:eek:

    next thing you know the runway lights came on, :) this was ~ 2:00 am, turned out the airstrip owner who was also a mechanic, was up late tinkering on something:cool:, heard me & turned them on,

    it was a moment
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2018
  29. chemgeek

    chemgeek Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Good point. I always take terrain into consideration when planning night XC. ATC will usually want to route me the short way over the Catskills, for example, but I will insist on a routing over the more friendly Hudson and Mohawk valleys, even though that is longer.
     
  30. pmanton

    pmanton Cleared for Takeoff

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    I really miss night flying. My night vision has deteriorated to the point that It's no longer for me.:( (I'm 80)
    Bah humbug off to find the Fountain of Youth:rolleyes:
     
  31. Sinistar

    Sinistar Cleared for Takeoff

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    Maybe I am Nate :) ....until Nate is back!
     
  32. Sinistar

    Sinistar Cleared for Takeoff

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    For the night flight of the OP, I was at 2800agl for the first leg. I was right up against the 3000agl outer ring of our Bravo. I could tell from ADSB that the big guys were landing that way and I didn't want to be any higher. On the leg under the Bravo I was instructed to fly about 400ft lower than I liked. On the way home I flew at 3500agl with a clearance into the Bravo to help that happen. But they were all shorter flights so climbing to 9000msl wasn't that practical.

    On my flight last night which ended after the sun went down. I was flying at 5500msl (about 4500agl) and was about 1000ft under the clouds. That was for about 100miles. I liked having the clouds just above me where I could be sure where they were. As it got totally dark I also started a slow descent (told ATC) to my airport so I knew I would be clear of them for the remainder of the flight. I much prefer altitude to seeing the sights at night. But tooling around the Bravo and under it really limits options. The flight last night was all outstate so just limited by clouds.
     
  33. mscard88

    mscard88 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    You’re no Nate. :D
     
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