Last night was my first night flight. I was super excited, but it was also very weird traveling to the airport so late. It was getting dark and instantly I thought it was going to rain versus it was just the sun setting. My CFI was a bit late picking me up (I’m not complaining because I still really like getting rides), he was watching his daughter’s soccer game and it ran late. It was actually for the best because I had scheduled the lesson at 6:30pm, the sunsets at 6:34pm and the cross-country was only suppose to last 45 minutes. It was going to be short 15 minutes of the first landing counting towards my 10 landings at night (an hour after sunset).
The sun had already set, but it wasn’t completely dark during pre-flight. I did forget to bring a flashlight (how could I do that!?) but luckily there was an extra in the hanger. Soon, we were off. We had a long taxi to the runway, it looked so different at night. I’m used to taxiing to runway 19, but now it was dark and just blue lights lining the taxiway. There was no one in the pattern so I was cleared to take off right after I finished my run-up with a right downwind departure.
It looked so different up there, but so pretty. I’m not sure how other people experience it in other areas. I live in a very congested area so there are lights everywhere. You couldn’t quite see the City off to the east because of haze, but Long Island has a lot of lights as well. It was a cloudy night. The horizon was a bit harder to make out from the clouds. My CFI was saying how beautiful it can be on a clear full moon night.
The wind picked up more from when I planned, and I have to admit at night, I used the GPS more than I ever have. My CFI spotted the airport Hartford-Brainard before me. It took me what felt like forever to spot the beacon light. He kept pointing out lights in reference to a clock and saying “see the white……see the green” and it just wasn’t happening until it finally did! The winds down lower calmed down and they switched runways so I was able to do a straight in.
It was weird lining up between two strips of light vs. just shooting for straight down a painted line. I landed alright. I don’t really remember the details, but I don’t think it was bad. We just taxiied back and took off again.
What was fun about Hartford is that the airport is kind of near the city so climbing is way more important after take off, especially of their runway 2, because there are skyscrapers not too far away. We headed back and I planned a climb to 6,500ft which is the highest I’ve ever been!
We spent a lot of time looking for airports on the way back so I’d get a better understanding of how to spot them. I spotted New Haven quite easily, maybe the angle of the runway? Bridgeport was another story. We both were having difficulty with this. I thought I may have seen it, but there was no green light. There were two other strobe lights that were distracting me. The rhythm of the lights is what told me it wasn’t a beacon. The light I originally thought was the beacon turned out it was, the green wasn’t too bright.
Next was crossing the Long Island Sound and seeing the stacks is pretty easy in the dark. Apparently, Republic is kind of hard to spot at night. It’s really easy in the daytime. My CFI was pointing out all different things and what they actually were so that helped. I found the beacon alright. I also knew before where the beacon was located so I could already orient myself. It was another straight in approach.
There was no one at the airport. Just us and the controller. So we did stop and gos to fulfill the 10 landings to a full stop requirement. My first landing there was all set to be perfect. I knew I was rocking it. And then at the very end, I stalled the plane and it was a much harder drop. I thought I was much lower than I actually was. That happens to you at night. It definitely threw me.
We continued doing stop and gos. My landings got better at night, it just looked a lot faster than it does in the daytime to me but I worked it out correctly. It was so quiet at the airport. We decided to make it fun and did at least two short approaches. I know that won’t be on my PPL check ride since it’s a commercial maneuver, but it’s still fun and I think good to know. To me, I look at it as a game. Land before your airspeed runs out. I won.
Since it was us and the controller, he wasn’t too happy since we proceeded to do 9 landings. I wasn’t sure if we’d do all my night requirement this time but we did the 3 hours, 100nm XC, and 10 take off and full stop landings. I saw my instructor check his watch when we were about half way through the landings and I asked what time it was. 9:15pm, I knew we couldn’t land and catch my train in time at 9:39pm and he didn’t seem to be showing signs of stopping us so on we went!
The only real interaction with the controller was “7AD in left downwind” “7AD cleared for stop and go” “Cleared stop and go, 7AD” and that was it. One time he came on sounding very annoyed. My CFI was like “sounds like we are bothering him” and then we thought about what he could be doing up there. Next time around I said to my CFI, “Wanna bet on how annoyed he’ll be this time?” and I called him and he came back and he sounded even more annoyed than the last time. We both lost control and started laughing. I had to respond while laughing, which I think gave us away. It was good though, on the next time around he was laughing when I called him.
I don’t have perfect landings every time, but they are starting to get easier for me. Since we were just doing it over and over again, I did work on getting them perfect, but also just enjoyed having it not seem like a constant struggle. My instructor gave me a hard time on one approach since I turned too early, he said “What are you aiming for? Do you plan on buzzing the old tower?” I’m actually surprised I didn’t misjudge it more with the lights and automatically try to aim for the strip of lights instead of the middle.
We finish the rest of the stop and gos in only about 15 minutes, which must be a record for Republic since it’s always so busy. It was only 9:40pm and the next train was at 10:39pm. He asked if I liked Corona, I said I’m not a fan of beer. He wanted to know what I do drink, I said rum and coke and wine are my go to drinks and he came back with “we have some rum and coke in the hangar!” So we hung out in the hanger for awhile drinking and talking. It was nice to relax like that and talk about non-airplane things. He explained more about being a firefighter to me and I thought that was awesome.
He dropped me off the train station closer to my train time. Our plan for tomorrow later morning was to go to an uncontrolled grass strip and do some more instrument time. I told him I very well might be tired since I wouldn’t be getting home until close to midnight.
Another full requirement down! I’m getting so close now! This government shutdown will have to be over before I’m ready to take my check ride.
Lesson Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 51.1 hours