Fear of Night Flight

Fear of Night Flight

How do I lose the fear of flying at night?

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

What is it that you are scared of, getting lost?  That is the only thing difficult about night flying as you lose the ability to use pilotage.  At least not nearly as well as in the daytime.  If that is it, then go get yourself a GPS 195 to put of the yoke.  You get the obvious GPS security, but with the moving map you get increased situational awareness.  This will also help if you have a fear that your engine might quit at night.  Then you can punch the nearest airport button and start heading towards it.  If this is not it, then find a good instructor or a seasoned pilot to fly with you at night.  Get some time under you belt and the fear of the unknown will go away.

I think that night flying is some of the best flying you can do.  Some nights you can see for a 100 miles, the skies are less congested, and because it is usually cooler than the daytime, your aircraft performs better.

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

Tyrone,

I also felt uncomfortable, so I decided to do most of my instrument training at night.  (Also, this is the only time I had available to do the training.)  I felt much better about night flight after working with the instructor a while.

Bryan is right -- the air is much cooler and calmer at night.  I live in the Phx. area and that makes the flights much more enjoyable.  I have found 2 or 3 nice airport restaurants at a nearby fields that are open late.   They make great nighttime 'hamburger runs'.

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

Try doing pattern work at dusk, and remain til it's fully dark. Then, depart the pattern for a short time and come back to land. This is how my instructor transitioned his students to night flight, and it's still what I do when I've lost night currency or feel uncomfortable.

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

The first few time try flying when there is a full moon and no clouds.  It won't be as dark.  I like to have at least a portable GPS in the plane at night, too.

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

It's easy for night flight to become defacto IFR. As a VFR pilot I insist on a good horizon at ALL times.  That means clear conditions, moonlight, and plenty of ground lights.  I got a pretty good scare one clear night when it became progressively misty to the point where I made the airport with only minutes to spare. I know - I'm a doofus - but in fact I'm very conservative. The weather briefing was wrong about the forcasted onshore flow and associated marine layer. Fortunately I was on a local flight. A VFR pilot should be VERY sure about the weather before ever considering a night cross country.  Also, it is fairly easy to fly into the ground at night in mountainous terrain. You must know where you are and the elevation of the terrain under you at all times. There's a good reason why most FBO's insurance companies will not allow renters to fly at night without an instrument rating.

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

Tyrone.

First and foremost, RELAX!  Your not the first, nor last pilot to have these feelings.

The only way to get over this is get back in the plane.  Like you [and many others], I had my doubts, but with my Lowrance AirMap500, and my honed abilities, I've become a much better pilot at night. 

It's only with practice you'll master it.  So start out easy, at dusk as noted above, and for sure get someone you trust with the ability to mentor you over this "problem", in the cockpit. 
For sure, don't do it until you feel the time is right.  It takes time to make fine wine, same is true for good night pilots!

Herb Rose N5793E, KZER

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

Night flying can be an amazingly wonderful experience.
It can also be pretty scarry.
A nice clear night and sufficient lights on the ground is one thing.
When you loose your ground referrence, flying over or towards a large area with no lights....desert, ocean....it can get real creepy real fast!  When there's no visible change at the horizon...the sky and 0'AGL (or MSL) look the same, you cant even tell which way is up by looking outside the cockpit.  You will need to able to rely on your instruments.
I recall making a 180 along the Calif coast one night...I made the turn seaward.  Suddenly, I had no idea what direction I was heading.  It was instant vertigo.  A quick look back, I was able to see city lights and all was fine.  Looking forward again...same thing...it was a real "eye opener".  I tried it a couple more times (knowing that a simple turn of the head would give my my ground referrence back)  I found it was very easy to get into a climbing turn or diving turn.  And without looking at the artificial horizon, there was no way to tell which way was up.
Occasional hood time is good for all of us, whether you're a daytime VFR pilot or experience IFR pilot.
<unless you have exreamly iron poor blood...you will get rusty over time>
Michael

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

That's the "BLACK HOLE" and it can be an experience. Part of why  instrument Flying is good to know. That quick turn of the head could cause vertigo too, and made the situation worse.

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

Besides navigation and trying to locate potential off airport landing sites, the biggest concern at night is orientation & vertigo.  Realizing that when this happens the best thing to do is fly by your instruments.  At that time your senses aren't reliable, but the instruments are.

The other two challenges I've experienced, is airports where the runway lighting failed and landing when my landing light failed.  Both present different challenges and it's a good idea to train for this with an instructor.  Experiencing it for the first time alone does increase the other fear factor known in certain circles as the "pucker factor".

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

I enjoy flying at night and always did so I really don't understand but I'll add -

Early on my instructor taught me to fly at night, then without lights or elec. we'd get in the pattern and he would tell me to be at pattern altitude and a certain airspeed and RPM - after a couple of tries it was very easy to get very close - he would turn the lights on and verify the results.

You do have to pay closer attention to where You are, if you spend too much time sightseeing (and I do once in a while because it's so nice at night ) then it's easy to get disoriented for a bit, so keep your mental picture updated, and listen to the air noises - the'll tell you if anything is going wrong - you can hear the difference before you even look at the compas or VSI -

- but practice with an instructor in a real familar area, always keep an alternate runway accessable, and soon You'll get bored with the local area and want to venture off a little then a little more. Always know where you are- confirm that- and keep your alternates in the forefront of your mind, if anything comes up You'll be ready. 

Ken

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

<HTML>I also had an instructor do the no lights thing, when I had about 15 hrs total. It's amazing how much it builds confidence to know you can land the airplane without being able to see the airspeed indicator.  After a few touch and gos the instructor reached over on downwind and turned off the instrument lights. I said "what do you want me to do now?" He said, "land the airplane".  When I did, he said he did the same drill with all of his students and he'd never had one who couldn't land the airplane.

About 200 of my first 400 hours were at night.  Then I learned that engines are not infallable, about the luckiest way possible.  When my engine packed up (broken piston skirt on a relatively low-time engine), I was on final, during the day.  The night before that happened, I had gone for a night flight on a dark night. I know now that when I finished my flight that night, there were less than 15 minutes of engine left.  If I had been out a little longer that night, I would have been in the "turn your landing light off" situation.

Understanding statistics, I still fly at night, but not as often, and generally not unless I'm going somewhere.</HTML>

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

Night flying is my favorite!  I understand your trepidation but experience will help overcome that.  I can't stress enough that you should go with an instructor until you are comfortable.  Just because you have your "ticket" doesn't mean you can't benefit from the experience and the calming effect of an instructor.  Landing without lights (inside and outside) is a real confidence booster!  Once you realize you can land it without cockpit lights and that the landing light is really only useful for illuminating the skid marks on the runway, you will feel a lot better about it.  Besides, I once flew from Houston to San Diego in my 182 at night.  As I crossed the desert in Arizona, I looked up and saw something I never see in Houston - the Milky Way stretched out before me.  I darkened the cockpit (my autopilot held the course and altitude) and just gawked!

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

Hi Tyrone,
     I flew for the Army and the airlines for 26 years, and was afraid when I first started flying at night, it was over come by instrument training and then just gaining more night flying experience, it became one of my favorite times to fly. Now that I am retired I would rather fly in the day time, just to enjoy the scenery. Besides a instrument rating, I would recommend getting at least a Garmin 296 that has the terrain warning data base for situational awareness, especially in the LA area, and unless you have to do otherwise, just fly in the day time if you are only doing this for pleasure, if you are going to fly professionly you will soon over come your fear.

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

Over the years, I've made several long cross countries in very small planes at night.  I always greatly enjoyed the night flights, and found them very relaxing and peaceful. 

At least, until the engine started running "automatic rough."  Then, the pucker factor would kick in.

My Uncle was an AA captain and, after he retired, he refused to fly at night in anything less than a twin.  I can see the wisdom in that, and this is the policy that I now follow.

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

I'm a student pilot wiht few hours, I recently flew at night for the first time with my instructor and I have to tell you that I love it. I went back the next day with my father (ATP) and ended up flying 2 hours around the area and to local airports, I have since flown 10 hours night time. Surprisingly i feel very confortable but i can see how loosing lights can be scary. As much as I like night flying I see the danger in loosing the engine and not seing where you can land. So I will try to keep the night flying to a minimum and i convinced my instructor to give me more leasons at night whenever possible.
jaime
happy flying

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Re: Fear of Night Flight

Things to think about:

1) Your O2 uptake at night is not nearly as good as it is durng the day.  Consider using oxygen anytime you are above 5000 feet at night.  It will greatly enhance your night vision.  (too many pilots don't do this.)

2) Your ability to react to an emergency is greatly enhanced by having a lot of altitude at night since your eyes are not as helpful as they are in the daylight.  Fly higher at night to mitigate the danger and give you time to handle a difficult situation should one arise.  (too many pilots don't do this either.)

Cover yourself with these two actions and enjoy the experience of night flying.

Walter Atkinson

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