Dual Night – First Flight

2013-10-09 18.49.42


Really don’t need to say much more (although I always do). With that being my first view of the night sky, how could any of this be bad?

And it wasn’t.  Night flight is a little daunting at first but it is definitely a different world up there.  I’ve been on a few night Cessna flights as “co-pilot” and, while definitely visually impressive, with no formal responsibilities, I didn’t really appreciate it.

No stars that night but a beautiful pastel sunset, a crescent moon playing peek a boo through the cloud layer, visibility literally as far as the eye could see, and smooth, cool air. Tranquility.

But of course, this is a lesson so there is work to do.

Pre-flight had 2 oddities.  One of the flaps made a small clank on its first 10 degrees.  The mechanism was secure and the rest of travel was smooth.  Made note of it in the squawk sheet but nothing to ground the aircraft over. 2nd item was a single distinct backfire on startup. Only odd since I had never heard it before from this plane. It occurred again after the refuel so my CFI was there for that one.  Again, odd, but since the engine was running very smoothly, nothing to ground the plane over.

Tonight’s tasks: Take off, exit the pattern.  A little steep turn work in the practice area and then off to do some night VOR navigation. Direct to, Track Outbound Radial, Turn back towards and intercept a specific radial…all with wind correction.  Altitude and speed to PTS.

A little issue initially with settling in my altitude prior to the 360’s.  It was just a matter of getting the trim right for the power setting. I did set about 100 RPM’s slower than normal which is what got things out of sync.  I am happy I am learning the airplane’s specific settings though.  Turns were on the money.

We set the VOR and began tracking to it.  About 15 miles. The winds were out of the NE tonight which is atypical but also a nice challenge.  Inbound tracking was quite simple and at this point the altitude was absolutely nailed.  Actually had some time to talk and look around.

Tracking outbound and back inbound were equally smooth.  Just some mountain wave turbulence as we went past the ridges.

I think my CFI had some other things in mind but the city scape was too inviting. She said…”let’s forget about the VOR and do some scenic flying.” Always mindful of the “surprise” I agreed.  There were no surprises tonight. We made the call to Harrisburg approach and said we would like to go lower and orbit the downtown area.  We were asked to maintain 3,500 but were cleared to fly around at will.

The one oddity was that with the winds out of the East, the approaches for KMDT and KCXY were essentially right in line with the city.  So, we were basically flying circles on the inbound traffic pattern!

Next task…turns about a point…with the point being the Capitol dome.  I laughed for a second..”won’t that get us some Blackhawks for an escort?” “Nah…they don’t care about Harrisburg.” Mindful of the wind direction and the higher than normal altitude I set up for my precision maneuver.

One thing about night flying as it relates to other air traffic.  MUCH easier to spot them (or at least their lights). Also, with being just above the approach path you can see a lot of it. So, we took turns pointing out the traffic  and then she had me keep breaking off the turn…not for avoidance as we were quite clear but “for a better look”.  SO cool to have regional jets skimming along silently underneath the little 172.

We finished 2 laps and decided to head back to N94.  Easy flight back.  My first landing ever on 10 and it has to be at night.  I didn’t have any landmarks for the proper pattern but she gave me the ones to use on the approach.  After turning on the pilot controlled runway lighting I had a few moments trying to locate the field but once I spotted it, the approach was pretty routine.

A little high but my CFI said…”At night, a little high is fine…throw in 40 degrees of flaps” which she calls the barn doors and the plane comes down quite nicely. Landing was best one in a while.  I was hoping to go around one more time but we had 1.4 in and it was time to call it a night. Re-approved for daytime solo.

Can’t wait to do that again.

NB: I had originally thought (and scheduled) my first 50NM solo cross country for next week.  I had written to my CFI to ensure I was authorized to do so and she responded yes.  When I mentioned it that night though there was some confusion.  She said I wasn’t yet authorized and further, the location I spoke about wasn’t the one I would do.  ???? Guess there was a mix up.  I still have to cover lost procedures and diversions…which I should have realized. So, no solo x-country yet but instead…we’ll do the long dual night and hopefully get the balance of the night requirement completed.  Not a bad compromise..See, it can be done!




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