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Night flying presents challenges you don't see during the day. Here's how you can overcome them.
If you see an aircraft in front of you with a green a light on the left and a red light on the right, you're flying toward one another, and you could be on a collision course.
Have a continuous scan to verify that your attitude indicator and natural horizon are matching up. If they aren't, you may be looking at a false horizon.
At night, you have a blind spot near the center of your vision. Because of this, you should utilize the off-center viewing scan technique to maintain the same level of situational awareness as you would during the day.
There are many illusions that create depth perception issues on final approach at night. If the runway you are landing on has VASIs or PAPIs, make sure to trust those glide path indications, and fly a normal approach to landing.
At uncontrolled fields where pilot controlled lighting is available, High Intensity Runway Lighting (HIRL) is convenient for locating a runway at night. But after you spot the runway, lower the intensity to low or medium (3 or 5 clicks on the mic). High intensity lighting is not only blinding, but it creates a depth perception issue that makes you feel too low on final, or that you are closer to the runway than you really are.
In addition to a normal preflight, remember that night VFR requires more equipment to be operable on your aircraft (FAR 91.205). The acronym you should remember is ATOMATOFLAMES + FLAPS.
The rods in your eyes, which are primarily responsible for night vision, take approximately 30 minutes to become fully adjusted to the darkness. It's essential that you maintain your night vision so you can see what's happening inside and outside your cockpit.
Your eyes use a lot of oxygen, so even the slightest decrease in oxygen in the body could start to harm your night vision. That's why the FAA recommends you use supplemental oxygen above 5,000' MSL at night.
Because it can be hard to estimate your height above the runway surface at night, you should shift your eyes down the runway and use your peripheral vision in conjunction with the runway edge lighting to slowly transition from the round-out phase to the flare.
Corey is a commercial aviation student and commercial pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings who attends the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the University of North Dakota. He has been flying since his junior year of high school and has since started his flight instructing training. You can reach him at email@example.com.