Don’t be left out

I took this photo last night en route to my home base of Frederick Municipal Airport. Believe it or not, it was my first night flight in years.

As nice as night flight is, it’s not my favorite. The prospect of losing an engine at night is a little intimidating. My night vision isn’t great. And I had never flown my 1964 Piper Cherokee 140 at night. (Now, you and I know the airplane can’t tell the difference and performs exactly the same. However, the old girl’s panel lights were not very strong, which meant that a flashlight had to be positioned so that it could illuminate the panel from below.)

But a flight instructor in the right seat can do wonders for your self-confidence, and I’ve known that for years. The resulting flight was so enjoyable that I’ve decided to get night current. Our daylight flying window in winter is so constrained; it just seems wasteful to let perfectly good flying time slip through my hands just ┬ábecause the sun has gone down.

If you’re experiencing internal unease with any other aspect of your flying–whether that is stall recovery, short-field landings, or instrument proficiency–a flight instructor is your best friend. Don’t let fears and worries prevent you from enjoying your flying privileges. Train, prepare, get help, and go flying.—Jill W. Tallman

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  • Cary Alburn

    Jill, since we both drive older airplanes, let me suggest you consider some of the things I’ve done to mine to make night flight safer (and easier).

    One of the first things I did was to replace my landing/taxi lights with HID lights. Now you also have the choice of LED lights, but either one will give you much more light, making landings, taxiing, and take-offs a lot easier. A very worth while side benefit is that their life cycles are so long that the warranty on my HID lights lasts the life of my airplane if I keep it, or 5000 hours transferable if I sell it. Considering the 25 hour average life of an incandescent landing light, over time you’ll pay for the higher priced lights in the savings on bulb replacement alone. It also makes it easier to justify leaving the landing lights on in high traffic areas, to be more easily seen by others, even in the day time. One caveat: Make sure it’s aimed properly, or it won’t be all that helpful, just brighter.

    I also had a Precise Flight Pulselight module installed, so that I can make my landing/taxi lights pulse, again adding to being easier to see by others.

    I had Nulites rings put around my major flight instruments, the altimeter, airspeed, directional gyro, and attitude indicator. The effect is much like they are internally lit, and the difference is phenomenal. Well worth the expense–I think they were about $100 each.

    Of course, I added wingtip strobes early on, and just last year I replaced the rotating beacon (which frequently forgot to rotate) with a split strobe, red to the front and white to the rear.

    I added a Flitelite to the boom mic of my headset, which gives me light wherever I look. I bought a Glovelite, which allows me to easily point to anywhere in the cockpit and see what I’m pointing at. And of course, I have all kinds of other flashlights, including an AA and the ubiquitous 2 D cell clamped to the flap operating lever–one cannot have too many flashlights!

    Don’t forget the old mantra about increased risk at night. If your engine quits, go to best glide, try to find out why it quit, and as you get closer to the ground, turn on the landing light. If you don’t like what you see, turn off the landing light! :)


  • jtallman

    Those are great suggestions. I’m especially interested in the Nulites rings as I have never heard of them. I’m going to look for those and if you should happen to check back here and wouldn’t mind letting me know where you ordered them, I would much appreciate it! Happy new year. —Jill

  • Cary Alburn

    Hi Jill

    My IA ordered them–not aware from whom. I have seen them in various parts catalogs but not sure which. Also saw them advertised in Trade a Plane.