Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Night flight

I know that a certain retired fighter pilot that I look up to says that flying at night is unnatural, but it was a clear night, the temperature was just right, there was no wind and the keys to the plane beckoned...

The setting sun's not getting away that easily.

But alas, it did. It set beyond the ridges west of the field where I dare not go after dark. Those ridges rise up sharply and quite high, and they're unlit. So I let the sun go and just took off to play around the area for a while.

I flew over town, and over the Lair, and then I just aimlessly drifted around, chasing cars on the roads and trying to pick out landmarks that I knew on the ground. The air was still, without a hint of breeze or turbulence. I climbed and practiced a few steep turns (a little different at night), then just sat back and took in all the lights below and the stars above. Finally I went back to the airport and shot a few practice landings just because I was having fun and didn't want to quit. The first landing was cause for a bit or comedy when I touched down, stopped, then reflexively asked for clearance to back-taxi for another take-off.

Tower, somewhat amused: "You want to back-taxi? The seventy-four hundred feet of runway ahead of you isn't long enough?"

Me, doing the face-palm: "Uh, yeah. On second thought, I can just go from here."

I'd have filmed a landing approach, but I'm just not slick enough to operate a camera and land a plane at the same time. Sorry.

Finally the military air traffic controller came up on the radio and let me know that it was their turn to use the runway and I had to either land and stay down or go away for a while. So I made a full-stop and headed back to the ramp. Too much fun. I have to do this more often.


  1. I enjoy flying at dusk, but after the sun is officially (read: FAA civil sunset) gone, I can live without it--especially in a single-engine.

    However, Life is full of exceptions and there are some routes that I have flown so many times that I know every airport, both public and private, and every suitable off-field landing area along the way.

    Flying at night on those routes doesn't worry me. At least, not quite as much.

    But. . . I do NOT like starting a trip at night. I don't mind landing after the sun has gone down and I always keep more than the required three full-stop landings every 90 days in my logbook in order to stay legal--but I don't like beginning a trip at night.

    Besides, something about water and darkness that causes my engine to make a different sound. . .


  2. Good idea, and practice DOES make perfect, in shooting AND flying! :-)

  3. @ AOA: I know where you're coming from. I don't see myself launching for a midnight flight up to Michigan any time soon, but I'm pretty comfortable playing around the local area for an hour or so, especially as I'm never really out of sight of my home field's lights.