Last night I took advantage of the fairly clear skies and warm weather to compete my required night flying. In order to apply for a Private Pilot Certificate (Single Engine Land), one needs 10 nighttime full-stop landings, 3 hours of night flight, and a night cross country flight with one leg of at least 50 nautical miles.

We started with landings. My first two landings were on Reid-Hillview's runway 13 Left. The runway lights and VASI were on, as was my landing light. The fist landing was a bit of bounce because I flared too late. It was hard to tell exactly how far off the ground I was!

On the second one, Jim reminded me to focus my attention on the far end of the runway. That helped a lot and resulting in a much smoother runway.

With the easy stuff out of the way, my next few landings were with the landing light off. It wasn't a very big deal, since there was more than adequate lighting on the runway itself.

Then the real fun began. We asked the tower to let us use Runway 13 Right, which is unlit. I performed several takeoffs and landings with nothing more than my landing light to illuminate the path. There's no VASI on 13 Right either. Luckily I had the lights of the mall at the end of the runway to focus on during the flare.

For my second to last landing, the tower noted that the winds were calm and cleared us to use 31 Left if we wanted. (It was 10pm, so the tower then shut down for the night.) We took advantage of that and I got to land with the aid of a VASI but no dominant lights at the far end of the runway to focus on. My first attempt resulted in a go-around, because I was a little fast and seemed to float quite a ways down the runway. Worst of all, it was difficult to judge how far away the end of the runway actually was.

Coming around for another attempt, I controlled my speed better and steepened up the glide. We made it down just fine. At the end of the runway, we spun around, took off on 13 Right, and made one last landing before hitting the fuel island.

Cross Country to Oakdale

After gassing up we headed for Oakdale. I took off on runway 31 Right and made a shallow right turn to head toward Mission Peak. We wanted to fly toward Calaveras Reservoir, keeping Mission Peak just to our left.

Jim wanted me to get us to Oakdale without the use of GPS or any VORs. Since there was no moon to light the terrain, I had to use the city lights and compass as my navigation aids.

I kept track of our time along the course I had plotted out on my map, complete with 10 mile markers. That gave me a decent idea of where we should be (within a mile or two). I cross-checked that with the city lights and other airports along the way. We say Byron, Livermore, Tracy, and Modesto along the way.

Before long, we were coming up on the town of Oakdale and I was scanning the area for the airport. I thought I had it in sight, but was looking about 15 degrees left of where it actually was. Once Jim gave me a hint, it was easy to pick out.

I triggered the pilot controlled lighting (7 clicks on the CTAF frequency) and circled the airport while descending to look at the wind sock. There appeared to be a very light wind from the east, so I setup for a downwind entry to the pattern for runway 10.

Runway 10 sloped uphill slightly, and the causes a bit of an illusion at night (and in the day too). That resulted in me touching down sooner than expected, bouncing a bit. But I recovered from that and made a rather smooth landing.

I found the turnoff and taxied back to fly a pattern and land once more. After the second landing, I took off again and headed home.

Once we were stabilized at 6,500 feet and headed in roughly the right direction, Jim put me under the hood for about 30 minutes. That gave me a chance to practice flying blind at night. I maintained course while holding altitude, made a few 90 degree turns, and a 180 degree turn. He'd also tell me what he saw out the window and I'd cross check that with my chart to get an idea of where we were. Later on, I got to use the VOR to help with the cross-checking.

Before long, we were back over the hill and I got to take the hood off. Once I found the airport (which was pretty easy), I headed home, dropped some altitude, and flew a large pattern to land on runway 31 Right.

We landed just before 1am, tied down the plane, and updated log books. I now have my insurance company mandated 25 landings and 10 hours dual in the Citabria 7KCAB, including the solo endorsement in my log book.


Posted by jzawodn at April 28, 2006 08:43 AM

Reader Comments
# Jeffrey McManus said:


on April 28, 2006 11:53 AM
# Jeffrey Friedl said:

You might want to describe "the hood" for those not familiar with it. When I was in college I did some programming for the university's airport, and sometimes went up on rides with the students. One was doing touch-n-goes with the hood, although I didn't know that was the plan when we took off. It was, how shall I say.... an interesting experience.


on April 28, 2006 02:49 PM
# Steve Foster said:

Before daylight savings the only real time I could get up in the air was after work (just about sunset). At one point I had around 10 or so night landings and 15-16 daylight landings.

I really enjoy flying at night but if I had a forced landing it could be difficult finding a safe spot to put down. Once I get southeast of Raleigh those fields get pretty dark and Pittsboro, Siler City and Sanford all start looking alike. It’s also hard keeping track of other traffic; aircraft lights and city lights blend together.

I’m almost ready to move from flying only in the pattern and performing maneuvers to cross-country so I’ll get back to the nighttime soon.

Thanks for posting! I really enjoy reading about your aviation endeavors even if you are just a taildragger….;)

on April 28, 2006 07:00 PM
# Benoit Brookens said:

That's great, congrats man. You've successfuly motivated me to get active in lessons this summer. :-)

on April 29, 2006 05:09 AM
# Joe Hunkins said:

Congratulations on a new flying milestone!

I think you should introduce Dominic Filosa to Inigo Montoya

on April 29, 2006 03:49 PM
# BillyG said:

I was thinking congrats when I read this the other day also but now I have a link that I think you may be interested in checking out:

"upload your GPS flight logs and display them on either Google Maps or Google Earth"

on April 30, 2006 06:35 AM
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