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Old 04-16-2012, 05:03 PM   #1  
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Default Marginal VFR at night

I ended up getting off work after sunset last night and got to do a little night cross country on the way home, (I drop skydivers so am able to fly to work once in a while when I can afford the gas) about a 60NM trip over some not so populated areas. Only a couple small towns on the ground along the way and no freeways to follow. Ceilings were around 4000 MSL with moderate and heavy rain. Terrain along the route rises up to about 2000ft. The trip went fine and was a lot of fun but I couldn't help thinking to myself how intimidating this scenario could be for a non instrument rated pilot.

Sure you don't need to have an instrument rating to fly at night but in my opinion when you're flying at night without a full moon, weather you are in the clouds or not, you are flying on instruments. My advice to anyone out there who does not have an instrument rating is make sure you are very confident in your ability to navigate with the instruments and communicating with ATC.

Another important note about flying at night... the only reason I know the ceilings were at 4000ft is because the AWOS told me, you usually can't see where the clouds are at night which means it would be very easy to inadvertently climb into them. Moral of the story is BE EXTRA VIGILANT during night VFR. I'm sure you all already know all this but a quick review never hurts.
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Old 04-16-2012, 06:06 PM   #2  
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Default Don't gotta be marginal - CAVU

During initial climb out of a rural airport, the panel blocked the horizon and lost sight of all visual clues and had to "go on instruments".
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Old 04-16-2012, 06:51 PM   #3  
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This is why the FAA does not allow solo night flight by VFR students. Too dangerous for the 3 hours of instrument time they have. It really is instrument flying, despite the categorization as VFR. It is also risky for those who have an engine failure in a single engine airplane, no matter what the experience level. I teach my students to always plan night flights within gliding distance of an airport along the way, and be forever ready to execute a diversion if the engine quits.
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Old 04-16-2012, 08:35 PM   #4  
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Say what? You can solo at night time. It's just not that common.
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Old 04-16-2012, 10:05 PM   #5  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yimke View Post
Say what? You can solo at night time. It's just not that common.
That's kind of what I was thinking. 61.87 (c) & (o)?.......
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Old 04-17-2012, 09:17 AM   #6  
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Technical correction accepted, but there is a reason why the FAA does not have a requirement for student solo cross country at night or any solo night time flight. It is too far out of the skill set for a typical student to be flying mostly on instruments with minimal visual ground contact. Here's a decent article on the subject.

AOPA- Student Night Flying
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Old 04-17-2012, 09:54 AM   #7  
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Default Too lazy to look it up

Don't students have to have some night flight logged prior to the PPL ride? Otherwise they'd get a daytime/VFR restriction on the ticket?
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Old 04-17-2012, 10:30 AM   #8  
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One dual night cross country plus ten dual instruction landings at 3 airports. It's all dual flight. The only way I would consider letting a pre-PPL student do a night solo cross country would be if they were sure they were going to do night flying when they get their ticket, and even then I would push them to wait until they get their instrument ticket first.
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Old 04-17-2012, 02:08 PM   #9  
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Originally Posted by N9373M View Post
During initial climb out of a rural airport, the panel blocked the horizon and lost sight of all visual clues and had to "go on instruments".
This is fairly common in Southwestern AK during the winter. Flat light and ground blizzards can make the runway and all the surrounding terrain turn into one grey/white fuzz the moment you rotate. Even during the day it's important to expect to go on instruments the moment you rotate, and to know the precise path you need to fly in order to avoid terrain.

Whether one is in AK or the Lower 48, at night or during the day in marginal conditions it's a good idea to be prepared to go on instruments and to have a departure procedure planned.
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