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8 Of The Most Common Night Flying Hazards

1) Night Vision

Your eyes need about 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness. And if you're using a flashlight in the cockpit, make sure it has a colored lens on it. White light can destroy your night vision in seconds.

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2) Strobe Lights

In most cases, you shouldn't use your strobe lights until you're ready to takeoff. Strobe lights can blind other pilots on the ramp, as well as during taxi.

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3) Autokinesis

If you stare at a single light, it can appear to start moving. Keep scanning the horizon to prevent it from happening to you.

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4) False Horizon

The right combination of street lights or clouds can make a false horizon appear. Bottom line: trust your instruments!

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5) Black hole effect

If you're flying into an airport with few lights around it, it can be incredibly difficult to judge your height and distance from the runway. To avoid flying a lower than normal approach, use the VASI/PAPI lights, and if the runway has an ILS, dial in the frequency and follow the glide slope on final.

6) Traffic Pattern Procedures

Fly the traffic pattern the same way you would fly it during the day. By using consistent power, speed and configuration settings, you'll come out on glide path when you turn final.

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7) Runway lighting

When you're approaching an airport, use high intensity runway lighting (HIRL, 7 clicks on the mic) to locate the field. However, once you've found it, turn the lights down to low or medium intensity (3 clicks or 5 clicks) so you don't blind yourself as you're landing.

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8) VASI/PAPI

If the runway you're landing on has a VASI or PAPI, follow it. At night, it's the best indication you have to fly a safe glide path to the runway.

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Want to learn more about staying safe at night? Try our Mastering Takeoffs and Landings course.


Corey Komarec

Corey is a commercial aviation student, CFII and commercial pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings at the University of North Dakota. Corey has been flying since he was 16, and he's pursuing a career in the airlines. You can reach him at corey@boldmethod.com.

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