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SEP Night flying

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SEP Night flying

Old 4th Sep 2016, 16:46
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SEP Night flying

Another straw poll - night ratings, who has one and is it worth the extra risk?

I've been thinking about adding a night rating for a new experience, however the view of some at the club is that it isn't worth the risk - saying that a forced landing is just going to be a crash, should this unfortunate event occur.

There are others though that say night flying is wonderful and feel that the reward/risk ratio is still worth it.
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Old 4th Sep 2016, 17:15
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I have one. Do I use it? Depends. I fly an SR20 so in case of the engine failing, I can pull the 'chute. However I will only fly if the weather conditions are excellent.

For me, flying at night - especially my recent New Year's Eve flight at midnight, flying over cities, watching the fireworks made it worthwhile so yes, having the rating is rewarding enough to enjoy it but I doubt I would use it as frequently in an older Spam Can....
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Old 4th Sep 2016, 17:19
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Any further education is of benefit for a pilot, regardless of using it later on, or not.

Yes, I really enjoy flying VFR at night, but you have to keep in mind that emergencies are even less funny. During my NVFR training they had the saying that at day you survive 90 percent of engine outs, but only 10 percent at night. NVFR training does also do good for navigational skills (similar to CVFR or light IFR) and radio OPS on RADAR freqs, so yes, if you have a chance to do, do.

For practical use, think of your usual flying profile and if you ever run into trouble being late, compare the risk of get-there-itis to simply stay calm and file NVFR. If you potentially want to go IR, NVFR is a real nice step and in my view almost a necessary one.
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Old 4th Sep 2016, 18:19
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Join Date: Nov 2000
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flying over cities, watching the fireworks
There seem to be three or four aircraft flying orbits around Cambridge's firework display each November 5th. I hope they're watching each other as well as the fireworks!
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Old 4th Sep 2016, 18:37
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I fly an SR20 so in case of the engine failing, I can pull the 'chute.
I think you're worrying about the wrong risk here. Everyone worries about engine failure without looking at the facts. Engine failure isn't the biggest cause of accidents. Add to that the biggest causes of engine failures are fuel exhaustion/starvation, issues that can be fixed by proper planning. Engine failure is the least of your worries.

Most certainly night flying is more risky but the major risks don't change based on the type of aircraft. CFIT, disorientation, somatogravic illusion on take off, are greater risks.

Also I worry when pilots are.happy to accept a risk just because they have a get out of jail card like.a ballistic 'chute.
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Old 4th Sep 2016, 19:21
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I think, statistically, SEP flying is safer at night than during the day, so why would anyone fly SEP during daylight??

Yes, I love flying and teaching for the night rating. With the correct training, the issues raised by 27/09 whilst very real, can be reduced to 'remote' in terms of risk.

However, last year, I only completed 2 night ratings, because of the weather. It really does have to be a lot better than during the day.

TOO
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Old 4th Sep 2016, 19:33
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TOO.

I agree, the risks I mentioned can be mitigated with good training. I was putting the risk of engine failure into perspective.

Cheers
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Old 4th Sep 2016, 19:42
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However, last year, I only completed 2 night ratings, because of the weather. It really does have to be a lot better than during the day.
The only night flying I've done is that I've had a few IR(R) lessons in the dark.


I was straight onto instruments after take-off, as there was nothing much to see out of the front window until levelling off at top of climb, and I wouldn't have wanted to do that without the instrument training.


Then the navigation is all electronic, one way or another (navaids or GPS), unless and until, I suppose, you've done a lot of night flying and got to recognise what your local area in particular, and the ground in general, look like at night. Dunno about others, but I'm unconvinced that I'd learn my way around sufficiently in the few hours that are required for the night rating to be comfortable navigating visually at night.


So, for me it's instrument training first, and night training second if at all, because you're going to need the instrument training to fly at night anyway. So, if I'm not worrying overmuch about the consequences of flying into a cloud I didn't see does that remove the "really does have to be a lot better than during the day" criterion? Do you teach night rating to mostly people who don't have IR(R), and does it make a difference if they do have it?
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Old 5th Sep 2016, 07:26
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Do you teach night rating to mostly people who don't have IR(R), and does it make a difference if they do have it?
I'd say, mostly, yes, it's to people without an Instrument qualification and it makes less difference than you'd think though of course the IR(R) course sharpens up your general flying anyway.

The first hour of the Night course starts, paradoxically, in daylight, just before dusk. The takeoff feels entirely normal for daytime ops, but as you level off, although you can see all the usual ground features, fields, hedgerows, individual houses etc, you'll notice that the cars have started to turn on headlights and the light from shop windows illuminates the pavement. Street lighting starts to come on and the sky towards the East is less distinct. As you fly around, the definition of the fields start to become less easy to make out, though you feel that you could still see to land on an unlit runway. After official night time passes, you start to see that the roads are now defined by the lights of the traffic and the shape of towns by the street lighting. In the days of sodium street lights, not only the shape but the colour of towns matched those on the 1/2 mil chart. By 1/2 hour after official night, fields have mostly lost their definition but you can easily see where you are by local roads and habitation. There is still a good visual horizon, especially to the West. Now's the time to land at an airfield with runway lights and prepare for your first night dual navex. I like to have this all prepared beforehand so it's just a five-minute hold on the taxiway to re-brief and then do the first night take-off. Whilst it's true that there aren't as many visual cues as daytime, there'll still e plenty of horizon definition until a couple of hours after sunset. I wouldn't recommend your first night flight to be more than an hour after official night.

Anyhow, why not go and do it for yourself? I understand that in the United States, Night flying forms a part of the basic PPL course, they can't see what all the fuss is about!

TOO
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Old 5th Sep 2016, 18:24
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Anyhow, why not go and do it for yourself?
Apart from "what if the engine stops" the practical reason is that I'd probably only get to use it once every other year or so, given the rental environment and airfield closing times, so I'd rather spend my money on other things!


(Having said which, I've just done a floatplane rating, which is even more useless.)
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Old 5th Sep 2016, 20:37
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I loved getting my night rating all those years ago. Flying over Coventry with light reflecting from the thick cloud above into the Beagle Pup was a great experience. Apart from a few occasions afterwards, I have never used the rating - not because I'm worried about it, it just hasn't been necessary. Yes, there is a risk but I recall the words of my instructor when briefing for an engine failure, 'Aim for a dark bit then at four hundred feet, turn on the landing lights. If you don't like what you see...turn them off.'
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Old 5th Sep 2016, 23:42
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Night flying in a SEP is wonderful and I feel that the reward/risk ratio is still worth it, though I'm less sure about how folks on the ground might view the risk/reward ratio.

Be careful if the weather is less than perfect; wet, gusty weather can be decidely unnerving for the inexperienced. It is frighteningly easy to lose visual reference and I'd say a basic and current competence in instrument flying is a prerequisite in all but ideal conditions.

Most of my SEP night flying was back in the days when Rule 5 was interpreted a lot more liberally than it would be today and some of my most memorable flights were operating low level over London. The SVFR desk at LHR would usually clear you direct from Tower Bridge to CHT at around 1700ft and the view at night was literally stunning.

I did have cause to pause and reflect after one particularly low level clearance in a PA38 across the west end of the LHR CTZ; the landscape was particularly black and featureless, there wasn't a horizon to speak of, I was essentially on instruments the whole way, and on being spat out right on the wycombe ATZ boundary and being given the local QFE from the tower, found that I needed to climb a couple hundred feet to join the circuit.

Old age, common sense and stricter interpretation of the rules preclude such activities now, but the memories will stay with me forever.
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Old 6th Sep 2016, 12:26
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Night flying offers some real benefits, provided your skills are good, and your decision making is appropriate. It is true that the chances of a "successful" forced landing are reduced, but honestly, I am less at ease flying across a large city [with no where good to land] than cross country at night.

A major safety factor is simply recognizing that you have much less information with which to safely orient yourself. Those who were unaware of this were reminded by JFK Jr's accident. He lacked awareness, everything needed for a safe flight was available as expected, he just did not apply the minimum required skills.

Night flying, in addition to the convenience of a longer available operating period, affords the pilot the opportunity to fly before or after unsuitable weather, instead of taking a whole day delay. Night air is also more smooth, so if it's been a really rough day, waiting until night to fly home might be nice!

Preparedness is vital. Have the additional items required, and know your aircraft systems well!
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Old 6th Sep 2016, 13:11
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I passed my night rating/qualification just after my PPL. I can even remember the date: It was the 17th Feb 2005. (The reason I remember is that it was the Thursday before I got married!) Since then I have flown a grand total of 1 hour at night. There are a number of reasons for this, but mostly because it hasn't been necessary or convenient.

The hour I did was last winter when I decided that it would be a good idea to resurrect the rating and spent an hour practicing landings with an instructor. The plan was to then spend time doing a nav exercise with an instructor, but we ran out of dark nights before we were able to do so.

I intend to continue with the nav exercise when the clocks change because I thoroughly enjoyed flying at night. The air is stiller and the scenery is spectacular. Yes I worry about the forced landing issue, but don't consider that a reason not to fly at night. I consider that a reason to make sure I'm as safe as I can be.

There are practical issues with flying at night, especially from Elstree. Firstly, Elstree is only open late 2 nights a week, so you've got to be very lucky with the wx, and secondly, because of power cables, the runway is only licensed at night in one direction so even when the weather is good you still need the wind to be blowing in the right direction.

I also view night flying in the same way others view and IR(R)/IMC: it could help you out of a sticky situation...
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Old 6th Sep 2016, 15:39
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I also view night flying in the same way others view and IR(R)/IMC: it could help you out of a sticky situation...
I don't. Weather forecasts can be wrong, but sunset forecasts can't.
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Old 6th Sep 2016, 16:36
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I have a night rating and IR. I don't regularly fly at night as my base airfield is closed and also the risk (single engine) is increased.

However the night rating opens up potential options:-

e.g. commencing a flight before official daylight (SR -30 mins). i.e. a "night" departure with "day" landing.

returning after an unexpected delay (headwinds) has pushed the landing into official "night."

Night also has the advantage of less traffic. At a large regional airport towards SS the place was like a beehive of GA aircraft, all buzzing the circuit and multiple on final. Once the clock past the magic SS+30 the place was deserted. Much safer to fly in SS+45 mins. (Not necessarily real darkness).

With the IR, the "night rating" is effectively only the last 200ft and landing.

flyme
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Old 6th Sep 2016, 16:48
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I don't. Weather forecasts can be wrong, but sunset forecasts can't.
As always, it depends on the mission profile.

Sunset forecasts are usually quite reliable, but our flight execution might not. Examples, if the credit card system at re-fueling f*cks up and instead of a 30 minutes stop you end up in a 2 hours delay, if the taxi to the airfield gets stuck in a traffic jam, if unexpected weather detours you by a significant time, if the girlfriend you met needs a second helping, if you have to wait 45 minutes at the taxiway before the airliner gets off the runway, if if if.

There are hundreds of reasons why you could end up in a situation where a night rating relaxes.
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Old 7th Sep 2016, 05:22
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For most pilots the biggest problem with night flying is finding airfields that are open at night, most of them tend to be the bigger, more expensive ones thus reducing the usefullnes of the rating.
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Old 7th Sep 2016, 13:27
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I found the night rating useful in the Winter months. Handy when the Wx is good but daylight is short. You can do some really nice navexes at night if the Wx cooperates.

Very useful if you are away somewhere and get delayed for whatever reason, as has been stated, came in useful to me a couple of times.
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Old 7th Sep 2016, 18:49
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Foxmoth, good point.

flyme.
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