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9 Ways To Avoid The Hazards Of Night Flight

Night flying comes with a lot of challenges. Here's how to overcome them.

1) Pay attention to position lights.

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.

2) Be on the lookout for false horizons.

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.

FAA

3) Use off center viewing.

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.

FAA

4) Use PAPI, VASI, and ILS Glideslopes.

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.

Live from the Flight Deck

5) Avoid using HIRL.

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.

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6) Take your time on preflight.

In addition to a normal preflight, remember that night VFR requires more equipment to be operable on your aircraft (FAR 91.205).

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7) Give your eyes 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness.

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.

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8) Use supplemental oxygen when you're at high altitude.

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.

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9) Use peripheral vision to estimate height during flare.

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.

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Thinking about becoming a pilot? Get started with ATP Flight School, and find out how to start your aviation career here.


Corey Komarec

Corey is an Embraer 175 First Officer for a large regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota, and he's been flying since he was 16. You can reach him at corey@boldmethod.com.

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