As our group of aircraft approaches the Out Islands on Feb. 1, the pilots go in different directions. You must land at an airport of entry and clear Customs, and if you plan to travel to other islands, you must obtain a cruising permit first. Some of our group head to Grand Bahama or Andros, but most of us plan to land at New Bight Airport on Cat Island, where we’ll be staying.
The rescue mission to pick up two stranded VFR pilots pushed our departure from St. Lucie County Airport in Fort Pierce, Fla., to the afternoon. As we head toward Cat Island, the sun is beginning to sink lower on the horizon. In the United States, this wouldn’t be a problem. In the Bahamas, it’s a cause for concern. Night-time VFR is prohibited, and with good reason. There are very few lights to be seen on the islands, and when the daylight ends, it ends rather abruptly. The dark sky blends seamlessly into the ocean, providing no artificial horizon. And there are very few airports with instrument approaches.
When we land at New Bight just before sunset, we realize that one of the airplanes hasn’t made it to Cat Island. After a few anxious moments, we learn that the pilot decided to land at Rock Sound Airport on Eleuthera so as not to push daylight. It was a smart decision. He and his passengers cleared Customs and were able to locate a one-night apartment rental. They enjoyed a meal of fresh grouper and a good night’s sleep, and joined us the next day. And this chapter caused a CFI in the group to coin a new phrase: “Bingo daylight” as opposed to “Bingo fuel.”