A little night flight!

Tonight’s lesson was scheduled from 6-8pm, so I left shortly after Aimee got home from work. The weather (finally) looked nice and clear and I was looking forward to getting a clear view of the horizon.

When I got there, the plane wasn’t there. No big deal, I thought. It was scheduled before us and I figured they were running a few minutes late. It turned out they were running 1 hour and 45 minutes late. Arg!

Gene and I took the time to chat and go over some material, so all wasn’t lost. But, nobody had heard from the instructor that had the plane and his wife and son were hanging out waiting for him. After about 45 minutes late, everyone started to worry a little. Club rules require calling in if you’re going to be late. At about 7:30pm, another 152 became available, so we decided to take that one up. There was about 45 minutes of daylight left. The plane finally showed up as we were taxiing out.

After a preflight check (as always) we took off on runway 3 and headed north west. I took over the controls a little earlier than before. Actually, a lot earlier. A few seconds after leaving the ground, I was (mostly) in control. At about 2,000 feet I looked left and saw the top fifth of the sun just over the horizon. It wasn’t the prettiest sunset I’d ever seen, but it was the first from the sky.

After a couple seconds of soaking in the sunset, it was back to work. I worked on ascending turns and level turns for a short time. Then we spent the remaining time on working with the flaps (at about 3,000 feet). Extending and retracting the flaps has some interesting effects on the attitude of the plane, so simultaneous pitch control was needed to maintain altitude.

As we were working on it, the sun disappeared. Night flying was surprisingly easy. I could still make out a bit of the horizon, so my turns remained clean, and there were lots of city lights and tower lights by which to navigate. I was just as at ease as I was in daylight. I was asked to point out the airport at one point. I knew it was somewhere off to the right, then I realized there was a large green/white flashing beacon to identify it, so it was easy to find.

It was getting pretty late, so we headed back. I followed the instructor’s commands to get us back to the pattern, and then flew the downwind. He took over shortly before the base and brought us in. There was some traffic in the area, but nothing we had to wait for. We did get an opportunity to turn on the runway lights from the airplane; 5 clicks of the radio transmitter button within five seconds turns them on medium. Cool.

I taxied back once we were clear of the runway. Gene parked it but went a bit forward of the tie down, so he had to push it back a bit once we got out (there’s no reverse). To do that, he leaned on the mid section of the tail to raise the nose wheel and just walked it back a few feet. The plane weighs less than Aimee’s car and about a third of what our van weighs, so I guess it’s easy to push around.

As we tied down the plane, there was a military helicopter hovering off to the side of the runway adjacent to us and about 50 feet up. It looked like some sort of training exercise. It was loud, but fun to watch.

We didn’t finish until after 9pm. I logged a total of 1.0 hours, 0.3 of which were night flight. Some number (I believe 10) of hours of night flight is required if you want to avoid a “no night flight” restriction on your certificate.

I have next Tuesday morning, Thursday evening and Saturday morning on the schedule. The weather isn’t looking so good next week, but it changes quickly around here.