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.

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