View Full Version : Night Cross Country Planning

13th Apr 2009, 21:33
Hello all,

I am doing some night cross countries to build night time and I would like your opinion about some flight planning matter:

My instructor always tells me to ''think commercial'' and plan my flights with the most direct route (to save time, fuel,etc...). But at Night, that disturbs me a little. You can't see any open fields below you to use for landing in case of an engine failure. I tend to prefer to have a longer route, following a highway, road, passing close to airports, than going for the most direct route over unpopulated areas, just in case I get into trouble.

Is it good, is it bad? pros/cons, how do you plan your night cross countries?

P.S: I fly C150s and C172s.


13th Apr 2009, 22:34
Your desire to be near population is admirable - however, it is not always prudent to aim to land on a highway/motorway/autobahn.

How are these road normally lit? - Well - by lights on poles or lights strung across them! What do they tend to have on the side of them.....signposts! What uses them....motor vehicles.

Heard say of a guy who successfully put it down on a highway only to then get run over by an 18-wheeler! Not sure how true that one is.

Go as direct as possible, as high as possible and be speaking to someone at all times. Pick towns or other features that are known to be lit as your turning points - you can't always guarantee a road junction or river or rail crossing will be lit sufficiently at night.

One of the most memorable flights I've had is a night return from Yuma to San Diego, following the border with Mexico. Well lit all the way up to the border on the southern side - hardly a light on the northern side. Wasn't too worried about motors going pop on that one....had two of them!:ok:

14th Apr 2009, 03:10
thanks a lot for your post :ok:
Must be really stressful to have a engine failure at night!!

16th Apr 2009, 18:39
When I was in South Africa a few years ago a lady had an engine failure in a high wing light aircraft at night. Her Dad was following her in another aircraft and watched her make a forced landing onto a lit road. She landed safely but then her wingtip hit a lampost and the aircraft cartwheeled and was written off. She walked away thank goodness but it backs up what Duchess Driver was saying.


17th Apr 2009, 05:10
thanks mysteryshopper !

17th Apr 2009, 11:54
I presume we're all talking about single engines here. I used to enjoy night VFR flights and cross-countries a lot - the towns really stick out and you see other aircraft over 10 nm away.

Now I shrudder to think what could've happened if my sole engine had quit - I'd rather do it in a twin in future so that at least I've got something to limp home on if it happens.

17th Apr 2009, 11:59
As far as Engine failures at night go (in a single) I was taught (In addition to usual checks, drills, mayday calls etc):

1) If you cannot see the ground (If is is a clear night, with a bright moon, it is surprising how much detail you can see on the ground) then aim for the darkest spot possible.

2) At approx 500' AGL, turn on the Landing Light(s)

3) If you do not like what you see, then switch them off again!


18th Apr 2009, 16:20
3) If you do not like what you see, then switch them off again!

haha, thats the first time i've laughed at something on pprune in a while (including the Friday Jokes). Good and true

Pull what
18th Apr 2009, 23:24
than going for the most direct route over unpopulated areas,

Where do you think the most sucessful forced landing would be, over an unpopulated area or over a built up area?

20th Apr 2009, 13:44
I forgot how many Ss there are in the forced landing neumonic but there's one which sticks out at the end and it doesn't start with an S at all ... it's a C, for Civilisation.

Go figure.

Horst Schwul
20th Apr 2009, 21:44
That Civilization is for the Gin and Tonic while you wait for the recovery truck!