FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Questions, comments, stories from our ZSE regulars

Moderator: ZSE Administrative Staff

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Sat Apr 27, 2019 1:20 am

Preparation for Night Flight

Night flying requires careful attention to pre-flight preparation and planning. Unlike daylight hours, when weather conditions in the vicinity of the aerodrome are visible, at night the situation is different. While stars might be clearly visible overhead one minute, the next they may be covered unexpectedly by low cloud, which could have a significant effect on flight in the area.
Study the available weather reports and forecasts, paying special attention to any item that could affect visibility and your ability to fly at a safe operating height. Some of the main items to consider are:
Cloud base and amount;
Weather – such as rain, snow, fog, mist etc.;
Temperature/dewpoint relationship – the closer they are, the more likely fog is to form as temperature drops further;
Wind direction and strength – from the point of view of runway choice, the possibility of fog being blown in, and the likelihood of wind shear due to the diurnal effect (a light surface wind with a strong wind at height as the result of less vertical mixing).
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Chris Brettrager
Posts: 533
Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2007 12:14 pm
Location: USA

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Chris Brettrager » Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:58 pm

Justin Alderman wrote:
Fri Apr 26, 2019 9:32 pm
Peter Armstrong wrote:
Thu Apr 25, 2019 2:42 am
Night vision can also be affected by lack of oxygen, so ensure that you use your (virtual) oxygen system when flying above 10000 ft amsl. On a more mundane level, avoid cigarette smoke in the cockpit at night, since it will displace oxygen in your blood to some extent, and consequently reduce your night vision by an amount comparable to an extra 5000 ft in altitude. In the long term, a good diet containing foods with Vitamin A and C can improve night vision.

Wait what? Where is this stuff being copied from? Must be some pre 1980's thing? :? :?
:teach:
The Don - I've been here for too long...
"He who stands a top the mountain for everyone to see, does not lead. He who finds a way to move the mountain, he is the one who leads." - Christian Brettrager

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Sat Apr 27, 2019 11:58 pm

Preparation for Night Flight

Check any special procedures for night flying at your aerodrome and in the vicinity.

For a cross-country flight, carry the appropriate aeronautical charts, and have them prepared for easy access in the cockpit. The greater the pre-flight preparation of the charts, the lower the in-flight workload.

Note that, if red light is used in the cockpit (environment where you virtually fly), red print on charts will be difficult to see. All lines drawn on the chart should preferably be in heavy black, since even white light in the cockpit will probably be dimmed to ensure that good external night vision is retained. If you are instrument-qualified, carry the instrument approach charts for the expected aerodromes of operation, as well as for any other suitable aerodromes nearby just in case unexpected cloud rolls in.

Note on the chart any well-lit landmarks that may be useful, including rotating aerodrome beacons, towns, major roads, railway yards, etc., as well as any radio navigation aids available for use. Be especially aware of significant lit or unlit obstructions.

Check personal equipment, including the normal daylight items such as a navigation computer, a plotter (or protractor and scale rule) and pencils (just in case all that high-tech stuff goes wrong!). A definite requirement for night flying is a good - virtual - torch – essential for your external pre-flight checks, and very useful in the cockpit in case of electrical failure.
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Tue Apr 30, 2019 4:55 am

External pre-flight check

Note: - remember, we are trying to simulate the real-world awareness on VATSIM Network.
A powerful torch is essential for the external pre-flight check to be completed successful at night. Not only must the aeroplane be checked, but also the surrounding area should be scanned for obstructions, rough ground and other aircraft. Tie-down ropes and wheel chocks are also more difficult to see (and remove) at night.
While the normal external checks will be made, some additional night items must also be included. These should be incorporated into the check if any night flying at all is to occur, even though the take-off might be made in daylight.

CHECK AIRCRAFT LIGHTS. A check of the aircraft lights is important. A typical technique during the pre-flight check is to position yourself near (or in) the cockpit and:

• Place the master switch ON;
• Check the instrument lighting and dimmers (if fitted);
• Check the cabin lighting;
• Check the taxi light, landing lights and anti-collision beacon by switching them ON, and then OFF again so that they do not drain the battery unnecessarily;
• Switch the navigation lights ON, and leave them ON for the walk-around, since it may be impossible to check them from the cockpit.
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Fri May 03, 2019 10:01 am

During the walk around:

• Check all of the lights and their lenses for cleanliness and serviceability;
• Carefully check the navigation lights (red-left, green-right, white-tail), as navigation lights are essential for night flight. The taxi light is essential for safe taxiing, but the landing lights, while useful, are not essential for flight – good take-offs and landings can be made without them; and
• Test any electrical stall warning devices, before returning to the cockpit and placing the master switch back to OFF to minimise electrical load on the battery.

Take great care in the night pre-flight check, focusing the torch on each specific item as it is checked, and also running its beam over the aeroplane as a whole. Ensure that the windscreen is clean and free of dust, frost or ice. If ice or frost is present, check the upper leading edge of the wing (the main lift-producing part of the aeroplane) to ensure that it is also clean. Any ice, frost or other accretion should be removed from the aeroplane (especially from the lift-producing surfaces such as wings and tailplane) prior to flight. Do not forget to remove the pitot cover, otherwise there will be no airspeed reading on the ASI.
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Tue May 07, 2019 8:39 am

Internal Pre-flight Check

Carry out the internal pre-flight check. Ensure that spare fuses, if required, are available. Place all items that might be needed in flight in a handy position, especially the torch, which should be placed where you can lay your hands on it in complete darkness. While handy, it should still be secure, otherwise it could become a dangerous missile in the cockpit during turbulence.

Cabin lighting should be set at a suitable level. Dim the cabin lights so that external vision is satisfactory, and reflection from the canopy minimised, but do not have them so dim that you cannot see the controls or fuel selector. It is unwise to begin night flying immediately after being in a brightly lit environment. Allow your eyes to adjust to natural night light.
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Wed May 08, 2019 3:04 am

Start-Up at Night

Make sure that you have the parking brakes ON before starting the engine, as movement of the aeroplane will be more difficult to detect than during daylight hours. To avoid draining the battery, unnecessary electrical services should be OFF until after start-up. Ideally, the anti-collision beacon should be turned ON just prior to engine start, to warn any person nearby that the aeroplane is active.

Keep an extremely good lookout before starting the engine – a spinning propeller is deadly, and may be difficult to see at night. With dim cabin lights, opening a window and calling a load warning that you are about to start the engine, “Clear propeller!”, and flashing the taxi lights or landing lights several times, will minimise the risk.

Once the engine is running, check outside to make sure that the aeroplane is not moving. The alternator/generator should be checked to ensure that it is functioning correctly, with the ammeter showing positive reading after the start-up. Adjust the engine rpm if necessary, to achieve a suitable charging rate. If the anti-collision beacon was OFF for the start-up, it should now be turned ON for added safety. Adjust the cockpit lighting to assist your eyes to adapt to the darkness outside.
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Tue May 14, 2019 5:39 am

Taxiing at night

The responsibility of all movement of the aeroplane, on the ground and in the air, lies with the pilot. Take advantage of any assistance provided by a marshaller, but remember that you carry the final responsibility. Use the taxi light, but avoid blinding the marshaller or pilots in other aeroplanes, if possible. The taxi light not only assists you to see obstructions and avoid them, it also makes it more obvious to other people that the aircraft is moving, or about to.
Taxi slowly and carefully. Taxiing at night requires additional attention because:
• Distance at night is very deceptive – stationery lights may appear to be closer than they really are’
• Speed at night is very deceptive, and there is almost always a tendency to taxi too fast. Consciously check taxi speed by looking at the wingtip area where reflected light off surface objects will help you to judge speed, and slow down if necessary.
• Other aircraft and any obstacles will be less visible at night. An aeroplane ahead on the taxiway may be showing just a single white tail-light that can be easily lost in the multitude of other lights. So, keep a good lookout.
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Wed May 15, 2019 9:42 am

FOLLOW TAXI GUIDE LINES OR LIGHTS

Taxiway lighting will be either two lines of side-line blue along the taxiway edges, or one line of centreline green. White or yellow taxi guide lines may be marked on hard surfaces, and will be visible in the taxi light. Stay in the centre of the taxiway to preserve wingtip clearance from obstacles. The ground reflection of the wingtip navigation lights, especially on a high-wing aeroplane, is useful in judging the clearance between the wingtips and any obstacles at the side of the taxiway.

If there is any doubt about your taxi path, slow down or stop. If you stop, set the park brakes ON. In an extreme situation, say on a flooded or very rough taxiway, it may even be advisable to stop the engine, seek assistance, or check the path ahead on foot. The landing lights may be used to provide a better view ahead, but they will draw more power, and (depending on the aeroplane) their continuous use on the ground may not be advisable.
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Thu May 16, 2019 2:49 am

FOLLOW TAXI GUIDE LINES OR LIGHTS

Pay attention to the welfare of other pilots. Some taxiways run parallel to the runway, so avoid shining your bright lights into the eyes of a pilot taking off or landing. Or taxiing, either by switching them off, or positioning the aeroplane conveniently.

Avoid looking into the landing lights of other aircraft yourself, since this could seriously degrade your night vision.

Following start-up and prior to take-off, all of the vital radio-navigation equipment should be checked for correct functioning. This includes VHF-COM, VHF-NAV, DME, ADF/RMI, marker lights and transponder. The altimeter should be checked for the correct setting.

During the taxiing run, check the instruments:

TURNING LEFT:
• DI/RMI/compass decreasing;
• ADF/RMI tracking;
• Turn coordinator shows left turn;
• Balance ball shows skidding right;
• AI steady.

TURNING RIGHT:
• DI/RMI/compass increasing;
• ADF/RMI tracking;
• Turn coordinator shows right turn;
• Balance ball shows skidding left;
• AI steady.
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Tue May 21, 2019 12:13 am

At the Holding Point

The holding point or holding bay may have special lights or markings. Do not intrude on the runway until you are ready, you have a clearance (if appropriate), and the runway and its approaches are clear of other possibly conflicting aircraft.

While completing the pre-take-off checks at the holding position, ensure that your taxi and/or landing lights do not blind other pilots. Ensure that the parking brakes are ON – an aeroplane can easily move during the power check, and at night there are few visual cues to alert the pilot. During the pre-take-off checks, do not have the cabin lighting so bright that it impairs your night vision. If bright cabin lighting is not desired, then the torch can be used.

Pay special attention to the fuel selection, since the fuel selector may be in a dim part of the cockpit. Ensure that any item required in flight is in a handy position.

Although probably included in the normal daylight pre-take-off check, checking the direction indicator for alignment with the magnetic compass while the aeroplane is stationary is especially important at night, since it will be used for heading guidance, both in the circuit area and on cross-country flights.

A final check of cabin lighting should be made. Ensure that it is adjusted to a suitable minimum, bright enough to see the major items and instruments in the cockpit, but not so bright as to affect your outside vision seriously.
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Fri May 24, 2019 3:24 am

The Night Take-Off

When ready to line-up for take-off, make any necessary radio calls, and look carefully for other traffic on the ground and in the air. Clear the approach path to the runway, checking both left and right “Clear left, clear right”. Conditions are often calm at night, making either direction on the runway suitable for operations – so ensure that the approach areas at both ends of the runway are clear. The landing lights of an approaching aeroplane are generally quite visible, but often pilots will choose to practise a night landing without using them, in which case the aeroplane will be more difficult to see – unless of course it has strobe lights.

Do not waste runway length when lining up for take-off, especially on a short runway. Line up in the centre of the runway, check that the DI agrees with the runway direction and, with the brakes OFF and the feet well away from the brakes and on the rudder pedals, smoothly apply maximum power.
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Sat Jun 01, 2019 2:51 am

The Night Take-Off – continued

Directional control during a night take-off is best achieved with reference to the runway edge lighting, using your peripheral vision, since your eyes should be focused well ahead of the aeroplane towards the far end of the runway. Runway centreline markings may also assist. Avoid overcontrolling during the ground run – keeping straight with rudder, and wings level with ailerons.

The take-off is the same by night as it is by day. Fly the aeroplane away from the ground at the normal lift-off speed, and adopt the normal climb-out attitude. The big difference is that, at night, visual reference to the ground is quickly lost after lift-off, and any tendency to settle back onto the ground will not be as easily noticed. As soon as the aeroplane is airborne, therefore, transfer your attention to the flight instruments.
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Tue Jun 04, 2019 12:43 am

The Night Take-Off – continued

Try to be on instruments before losing the last visual references, which typically will be the last set of runway lights, since the first 300-400 ft of the climb-out will probably have to be totally on instruments until you are high enough to regain usable visual references.

Maintain the normal take-off pitch attitude and the wings level on the attitude indicator. Climb power and climb attitude should result in a positive climb away from the ground, reflected in a climb rate on the VSI and a gradually increasing altimeter reading.

The ASI should be checked to ensure that a suitable airspeed is being maintained on the climb-out, with minor adjustments being made on the attitude indicator as necessary, and, once well away from the ground and comfortable in the climb-out, the direction indicator can be checked for heading.
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Peter Armstrong
ZSE Controller
ZSE Controller
Posts: 399
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 am

Re: FLYING ON INSTRUMENTS

Post by Peter Armstrong » Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:05 am

The Night Take-Off – continued

In a retractable-undercarriage aeroplane, the gear should not be raised until a positive climb is indicated on both the altimeter and the VSI. Flaps should not normally be raised until at least 200ft aal, and no turns should be made until a safe height is reached. Normally, a steady straight climb is maintained until 500 ft aal before turning onto the crosswind leg.

With little or no natural external horizon visible, the instruments become very important. If glare from the landing lights is distracting in the cockpit, turn them off when established in the climb. Mist, haze, smoke or cloud will reflect a lot of light.
If an engine failure occurs during the climb -out, follow the normal daylight procedures. Lower the nose to the gliding attitude to ensure that a stall does not occur, and use the landing lights to assist in ground recognition. Maintain control of the aeroplane. Ideally, if sufficient height is available, re-start the engine and climb away. Fuel selection may have been the cause (a very serious error to make!).

If the problem occurs during the take-off ground run prior to lift-off, close the throttle and apply the brakes as necessary, keeping straight with rudder.
Happy controlling/flying :beer:
Valor Morghulis
Valor Dohaeris
Caveat Lector

Post Reply