Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lesson 28: Night cross-country

Plane: Cessna 150
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I-AID-40I
Weather: Clear, 59 degrees, wind calm

Alright, so I know I have been spoiled with pretty much the best weather you'll ever find for flying at night. Dave has made that quite clear to me. But even taking that into account, I still think that night flying is completely awesome. I'm sure I would not enjoy it so much if it was hazy and I couldn't see much, but on a night like tonight it's beautiful.

I wanted to go a fair distance away and Anderson, IN turned out to be a reasonable destination. They have a control tower and it's an easy route to and from the VOR in Richmond, IN. During my flight planning I noted the radials (magnetic course) off the VOR so I would be able to get some more instrument time during the flight. It's always nice to work on two requirements at the same time.

Once we got up to altitude, you could see for miles - like fifty or more. We could see beacons from quite a few airports and clicked on the lights as we flew along because a) it's fun and b) it helps you positively identify the airport. With a nearly full moon and the city lights below, it's a wonderful sight out the windows.

Ten miles out from Anderson we called the tower and got no response. We tried again a couple times and then another guy came on the radio also trying to reach the tower. Apparently the decided to go home early - the Airport/Facility Directory said they should have been there for at least another hour. No big deal though, ad I simply made my calls over the tower frequency and announced a 5 mile final for Runway 30 since we were heading straight towards it. On short final it became quite obvious that the runway had a good slope to it, dipping down a bit in the middle. A quick taxi down to the other and and we took back off on Runway 12 (opposite direction on the same piece of pavement we landed on) and departed to the East.

Once off the ground, Dave had me put the hood on and I flew a little over a half hour tracking the VOR just using the instruments. If you look at the GPS track you'll see it looks more like a bunch of S-curves on the way back home. I did a lot better than my first time on instruments but I definitely still chase the instruments and end up not flying a straight line. But I did track the VOR radials and climbed up to 5,500 from 3,500 while staying on course. Let's just say I can already tell my Instrument rating is going to be a lot of work.

Hood off and halfway home, we picked out the beacon from Lebanon-Warren County Airport from a solid 40 miles away. Funny how things seem close when you have that kind of visibility and then it takes you a half hour to get there. We flew right over Middletown and then just South of Wright Brothers Airport as I followed Ohio Route 73 over to Waynesville. Almost to Waynesville and with the airport in sight, I entered the pattern for a landing on Runway 26. We had a slight tailwind (the only runway approved for night landings is 26) so I made more of a short field approach with all 40 degrees of flaps. It went much better than last night and I turned base later so we got the plane down and stopped right at the last set of lanterns.

I certainly lucked out with the weather this weekend, but getting up in the sky at night is a whole new perspective on the world. I've already got enough night hours to make the FAA happy but I scheduled another night flight with Dave for next weekend. Seems like a good thing to have more experience and practice with, plus it's just a lot of fun! And how often do you get to land at night on a grass strip lit by oil lanterns?

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 2.3 hours
Solo/PIC Time: 14.6 hours
Total Time: 51.9 hours

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