Getting the night rating in the licence 

So after doing the night rating course and getting the sign off, the next job was getting the night rating in the licence.

The day started at 6:45 as I heard it’s best to get to the CAA early as the later you leave it the longer the queues.
Yeah well, that didn’t work as by the time I got there at 8:20 (10 mins before opening) I was number 7 in the queue!
Anyway I sat down and anxious kept an eye on my email box as I was awaiting my first ATPL exam results. The wait turned out to not be that bad and after an hour I was seen to by a lady, so result! She needed my course completion certificate from the school, my licence and my medical and after about 15 mins she return to me as it was all done.
Being the CAA there is of course a extortionate charge to reprint an A4 licence and put some details in a computer. Can you guess the cost? £20? maybe £30? Oh no £88. Yup, how they arrive at that price I have no idea but what can you do! At least my new bit of A4 says “night” on it.
So all in all a reasonably fast process and if you live near Gatwick it is a much better idea then sending all your documents down and the risks that involves such as your log book getting lost in the mail etc.
I don’t see me doing much night flying going forward but it is always nice to have the training behind me if I ever need it.

Night Rating Lesson 4: Dual Circuits

So after a month of trying and failing due to the weather I finally got up to the school for night rating lesson 4: dual circuits.
night rating lesson 2
I only had 20 minutes of time required to complete the course but the school apparently has a 30 min minimum time that you have to fly, so we did just that. I decided to just finish it dual as I hadn’t flown in a month and as I was paying for an instructor I might as well use him.
We went out to the plane and I got to test my Bose A20’s that I had purchased a month ago but have had zero chance to use. It took some getting used to how much more quiet the engine was and I’m sure they will do wonders to protect my ears over the next few years. I will talk about that in more detail in a future post however.
We taxied out to runway 21 which had a slight crosswind from the right but nothing too serious. I did three circuits in total before landing and returning back to the school pretty much bang on 30 minutes later.
You then have a paperwork exercise that the CFI needs to do filling in total time and signing your course completion certificate etc.
After the long wait for my PPL issue I think I will drive to Gatwick and use the counter service to have this added as that should be a same day service. However with Xmas and exams in the first week of January I doubt I will be doing this before mid January, but at least the night rating is now complete.
For me this was something I completed as it was a CPL requirement, I doubt I will be doing much night flying in a single engine piston to be honest.


Night Rating Lesson 3: Solo Circuits

I had a week off last week to attend the revision week for my first set of ATPL exams, so yesterday I had night rating lesson 3: solo circuits.
Night rating
My instructor and I had managed to do 3.3 hours in the last 2 lessons so it was possible that the night rating could have been finished that night.
I arrived with about 15 mins to go before night started, so I ran out to the plane and pre flighted it so we could depart on time. My instructor called for the circuits he had booked, which of course the ATC had no idea about, but thankfully he had no issues with us going into the circuit.
There was two of us tonight, an instructor doing night circuits with the CFI and me. I did two quick circuits with my instructor then we landed and he jumped out as it was time for me to go back up solo.
To be fair it really wasn’t that bad, apart from the ultra low light and extra concentration required due to the plane having no backlight it wasn’t much different from the circuit in the day. The only difference is you climb to 700ft before turning and try to be at 1200ft in downwind. The winds were really mild tonight as well which was very helpful as it made the landings easier.
I managed to get the required 5 take off and landings in with no real issues, well no real issues until the last circuit. As I turned base there was something there that wasn’t there just minutes before on my previous circuit. A huge cloud! As a VFR pilot this is a no go for me so I basically had no choice but to land. The issue was it was covering the majority of the route to the runway and im not allowed to fly through it.
I managed to navigate around it out to the left and then cut back inside before lining up and landing. I got back inside and totaled up my night time which came to 4 hours and 46 mins. Yeap, I was just 14 minutes short of finishing the course but nature decided it wasn’t to be. My instructor has a commercial job so no more night flying for me until the 5th of December, at which point I should finally be able to complete it.

Night Rating: Lesson 2

Following hot on the heals of yesterdays lesson I was back up the airfield today for night rating: lesson 2.
night rating lesson 2

I took the picture above at the start of night and within about 5 mins it was pretty much totally black.
This lesson we wanted to focus on the circuits so we took of and entered the circuit and surprise, surprise we were the only ones in it.
When flying at night the circuit height is 1200ft instead of the normal 1000ft, so after take of we extended the leg to 700ft before turning rather than the normal 500 ft.
We did 4 regular circuits, 3 flapless and 2 without any landing light.
What makes it harder at night is that the runway lights only work within 30 degrees of head on so when you are downwind they are very hard to make out. My instructor said in America they are 360 degrees which would make a lot more sense but what can you do.
I guess I am quite lucky that Cranfield is well equipped and the runway is fully lit with PAPI indicators which you can use to judge your height above the runway.
The most interesting one was landing without the landing light. I know we turn it on during the day but at night it really does make a difference. With it turned off you cannot really see the runway and just have to do your best to judge where the flare should take place. This can lead to some ‘firm’ landings, as you have little visual reference.
I don’t think night circuits are that much more difficult and it most definable would be easier if the plane had a backlit panel. You would think for £185 a hour (I know, how much!) that it would.
I am down in Bristol next week for my ATPL theory brush up week so there will be no more night flying for at least a week. However I now have 3.3 hours logged at night so I am hoping that I can get the final 1.7 hours and 5 landings done in my next lesson the following week.

Night Rating: Lesson 1

Now that the nights are dark I have decided it is time to get signed of for flying in the dark, so yesterday I had Night Rating: Lesson 1.
Night rating

So the first thing you can see from the picture is that it is dark, really dark. The only things that are really available to navigate by are the built up areas and major roads. Everything else just looks like a black abyss that you don’t really want to head into. One exception however is emergency services flashing blues, they look awesome!
At least the plane had a backlight panel .. oh wait no it didn’t. Instead my instructor and I had head torches with red lights in them, the red light allows you to keep your night vision.
Cranfield (the airport I fly from) is open until 6.30pm on a week day and as night is officially starting around 4:50 this seems like a good time to get it done as it can be done in just a few days.
I had dragged my instructor back from his job flying the fancy Pilatus PC 12 around Europe and instead convinced him that the mighty Cessna 152 is where he should be spending his time. To be fair, he was happy to do it (I think).
When we took of it wasn’t too windy we climbed to 2500ft and then leveled off and then did some turns. There isn’t much to report here, just one turn to the left and one turn to the right.
Next up I was told to look down and then he would move the plane around and ask me what I think he did. This was to show me that the “seat of the pants” sense couldn’t always be trusted (looks like Human Performance is coming in handy).
From here we did a navigation flight before returning back to Cranfield to do a landing.
By now the wind was gusting up to 22kts and my instructor told me the best approach was flaplesss, I hadn’t done one of these since my test (months ago) so here I was doing a flapless landing, in the dark, with the wind gusting and a crosswind … great.
On the first approach I was too high so in the words of my instructor “Don’t try to save a landing in the dark” so I did a go around and set myself up again. This one went better, I did land a bit long but apart from that it wasn’t bad at all. I never really did have too many issues with crosswind landings.
On the after landing checklist I found one issue which was “landing light – off” erm I don’t think so, you can’t actually see anything if you do that!
1.6 hours of night in the book. My instructor says tomorrow we will do some night circuits, lets just hope the wind isn’t as strong!

I also found this great PDF on night flying.