All night flight

This was my first evening flight since daylight savings time ended. My 6-8pm flights had been starting during the day and ending after dark, but tonight it was dark from the beginning. That meant a preflight in the dark. I had a tiny flashlight with me that I hoped would do the job, and it did. It took a little longer because I had to juggle the light at times to check what I needed to check.

Since it was dark anyway, Gene decided it would be a good time to work on some more instrument flying. After leveling out at 2000 on our way to the practice area, I put on a visor. It didn’t work very well, but it was sufficient to keep me from looking outside.

The air was very calm, which makes instrument flying pretty easy. We worked on climbs, descents, turns to a particular heading and simultaneous combinations of the three. I also did a little VOR navigation. It all went quite well. Other than not being able to see the wonderful scenery, I enjoyed that 0.5 hours.

About half way through the instrument work, I took off the hood and Gene asked if I knew where we were, given our heading for the last few minutes. I first guessed Pittsboro, but then quickly thought more like Siler City. A glance to the left and I saw city lights and a green/white beacon just south of the city; it was the Siler City airport. Not bad for flying blind.

We headed back to the Sanford airport to get in some night landings. While the air was smooth, there were some winds aloft out of the southwest, so runway 21 was active.

I had a little trouble getting a stable downwind in the dark since I don’t think I’ve ever landed on 21 in the dark. Also, runway 3 has instrument approach lights leading up to the runway, but 21 has nothing. You can’t even see the threshold lights until you’re on base, so I was momentarily confused about where the end of the runway was.

In spite of my initial disorientation, my approach was smooth and on target. In fact, all 5 of my approaches were very good. My landings weren’t as good as my approaches, but they got progressively better. It was a lot different than landing during the day. I need to work on looking more at the runway lights and not depending on the landing light since I can’t see the runway in front of me anyway during the flare.

Overall it was a calming and very encouraging lesson. After 1.6 hours later (the longest single flight I’ve had to date), I’m now at 26.7 total.