This past weekend my wife was out of town for a spa trip with one of her girlfriends, so I had some time to myself. Considering I hadn’t flown at night in probably over 5 months, I figured it would be great time to get current on my night takeoffs and landings (since I’d have to do those solo before taking passengers up at night anyway).
I headed to Westosha on a beautifully calm and clear Saturday night. The night air was crisp and the new moon allowed the stars to shine very brightly. Of course, this also meant that pre-flighting the plane was a little more difficult and tedious as everything had to be done by the light of my flashlight. I forgot how difficult it can be to check the airplane and read the checklist in the dark of night. Even once in the plane, things are a notch more difficult. Just goes to show how important it is to properly prepare beforehand.
The flight went great. I first headed up to Burlington (BUU) for a change of scenery and knocked out 2 full-stop landings there. I then proceeded over to Kenosha (ENW), since I always need a little more practice with communicating with towered airports. I had my Mio C320 personal GPS device and the airplane also had GPS to help me find my way. I must admit, I’m pretty happy with my C320 and the NavGPS software…it worked like a charm and jived 100% with the built-in GPS of the plane. It is great for situational awareness. That being said, I realized a pilot must take the data these devices provide at face value. For instance, the tower told me to report out 1 mile right base of the landing runway. Of course, the GPS doesn’t measure distance from the end of the runway, it measures from probably the airport center. That being said, when I reported to the tower 1 mile out (according to my GPS), I was probably 0.5 miles from the end of the runway. And as usual with night flights, distances are hard to measure visually. Needless-to-say, I had to perform a side slip to lose altitude quickly enough to land near the end of the runway. It was good practice, though, as I hadn’t had to perform a slip in some time anway.
After Kenosha I headed back to Westosha and tied up the plane. I completed 4 full-stop takeoffs and landings, one extra from the required three to keep me legal to take passengers up at night for a while. I can’t wait to take Lisa up at night again; it’s so pretty and peaceful with all the lights. I logged 1.1 hours of pilot-in-command flight time.