Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lesson 29: Into the dark night sky (again!)

Plane: Cessna 150
Instructor: Dave
Route: 40I-VNW-40I
Weather: Broken clouds, 47 degrees, wind 070 degrees at 4 knots

As far as the FAA is concerned, I have fulfilled all the training requirements for night flight. But I wanted to go up again because a) the sky is like glass and it's beautiful and b) it seems like a good idea to have more practice with a CFI before I try it solo or with passengers. After discussing exactly where to go, we settled on Van Wert County Airport (VNW) in Van Wert, OH. I drive past the place all the time when I drive to Kalamazoo from Dayton so I know the route and I liked the idea of a night flight along a route close to one I will likely be flying in the future.

In order to maximize the training potential, I planned the route using VORs like last week's night cross-country. We flew direct from Stewart to the Dayton VOR (identifier DQN) and from there direct to Van Wert. The visibility was once again ridiculously unrestricted, and we could see Columbus when we were flying West of downtown Dayton. he moon also came up over the horizon about 10 minutes after we took off and it was a spectacular reddish-orange glow as it rose up into the clouds. We got to fly perpendicular to the approach end of Runway 6L at the Dayton International Airport as well so some airliner traffic came in underneath us on final approach. I was able to spot the airport from a good 30 miles out and it was very easy to see the cities I had picked as checkpoints in addition to referencing others on the sectional chart. The entire outbound flight was flown VFR. T

Dave said again how much he's impressed with my radio calls. I know the radio really gets to some students, especially when they fly out of untowered fields. But I think my comfort is probably due to a combination of listening to ATC online and with my handheld radio and reading books like Say Again Please, which I highly recommend. I called up and got us flight following all the way to VNW and that communication with Dayton Approach also allowed us to transit Dayton's Class C airspace. Coming into Van Wert we were handed off to Fort Wayne Approach and then I made all the normal blind position calls on the CTAF when we had the airport in sight.

On the return leg, I stuck the hood on my head and logged a half hour of instrument time that I spent tracking the VOR back towards Dayton. I've definitely noticed and felt an improbement in my skills in the three lessons I've been on instruments. That work complete, Dave had me do my first diversion. He told me to not use the VOR at all but turn us to Richmond, IN. I glanced at the chart and estimated it would be a 235 heading. I turned that way and could tell it was the right general direction because the lights of Richmond were visible. Then I checked the chart and saw the airport was South of town and then looked out the window and identified the rotating beacon and headed straight for it. Another pilot landing at Richmond turned the lights on and that confirmed I had us pointed the right way - success! It seemed easy enough but I know it would be way different if I was diverting due to bad weather and poor visibility, for example. I've really been spoiled up there lately.

We descended and were clear of the Class C so I turned and we flew right over top of Wright Brothers (MGY) and between Moraine (I73) and Middletown (MWO) airports. Once almost to Waynesville I made a right turn to the South and we spotted the field and entered a left pattern for Runway 26. The whole approach was very stable and Dave brought the flaps to 40 from 30 degrees after we cleared the trees on short final to add drag. Considering there was a slight tailwind I got her stopped very quickly - the best night landing I have made at Stewart by far. I really hope there's more upcoming weather like this because I hope to be able to take someone flying after sunset once I get my certificate!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File (It ends over Middletown - the batteries died)
Today's Flight: 2.3 hours
Solo/PIC Time: 18.3 hours
Total Time: 58.3 hours

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