Exercise 20 – Night Flying

Exercise 20 – Night Flying



  • Internal/external lighting
  • Minimum internal lighting (dark adaptation)
  • Use of lights (navigation ON when aircraft manned, anti-collision ON for engine start)


  • Speed
  • Use of Taxi Lights


  • Flarepath demo


  • Take-off – distant lights to keep straight
  • After take-off – straight onto instruments
  • Mix of visual and instrument flying
  • Standard pattern, size/shape, RT
  • Final approach – same technique as day with lights to judge approach path
  • Drift changes (diurnal effect)
  • Judging start of flare
  • Landing attitude (as day) – use lights at far end of runway to judge
  • Ensure speed reduced for turn off


  • Student to do any go-arounds on his own initiative from poor approaches/landings


  • Mix of visual and instrument flying – not neglecting lookout
  • Navigation technique unchanged
  • Useable fix features by night



  • The basic techniques of night flying are identical to day flying (Power, Attitude, Trim and Lookout, Attitude, Instruments). The significant difference is the extent to which visual references (using the natural horizon) have to be supplemented or replaced by reliance on instruments. Just after sunset or in bright moonlight, the differences are minimal; on a dark night, instrument techniques must be used to fly the aeroplane but lookout must be maintained.


  • Preparatory instruction
  1. Local night flying procedures
  2. Night flying emergency procedures
  3. Night vision
  4. Danger of injury from taxiing aircraft
  5. Use of landing lights and anti-collision beacons
  6. Disorientation
  7. Diurnal wind effect


  • In addition to the usual pre-flight briefing, you must brief your student on the following:

a. The airfield lighting and the use of runway lights.

b. The internal and external lights, their function and the position of the relevant switches.

Note: Have your student sit in the cockpit by day to familiarize himself with the switches before night flying.

c. Night Vision Adaptation

Stress that adaptation takes up to half an hour but can be destroyed instantaneously by exposure to bright lights, so that the torch must be used carefully, cockpit lighting be kept to an acceptable minimum and turned down as the eyes become adapted. Emphasize, too, that every pilot has a responsibility not only to protect his own night vision but to avoid using lights carelessly and degrading the night vision of others.



  1. When taxiing, obstructions may be more difficult to see and judgement of speed is more difficult. Emphasize the need for extra caution, to look to the side to judge speed and that your student should stop if he is doubtful about the taxi path and his distance from obstructions.
  2. Your student must carry a serviceable torch to assist with external checks and in case of emergency.
  3. All RT calls should be made at the standard positions in the circuit so that ATC and other pilots have a reliable indication of your aircraft’s position. At night, a ‘runway vacated’ call should be made as the aircraft taxis off the Runway.
  4. Anti-collision lights are an excellent aid to aircraft identification but when flying in or near cloud the reflection in the cockpit from these lights can be very distracting and in these circumstances they should be switched off.


  • Night disorientation

Although your student has already learned about the physiological effects of flying on instruments, and may have already experienced spatial disorientation, you must make him aware of the supplementary problems of night disorientation. In addition to erroneous sensations from the balance organs, visual cues can also mislead. On dark, starry nights pinpoints of starlight and isolated lights on the ground are indistinguishable and can be profoundly disorientating (which way is up?). Equally, lines of lights may be mistaken for a true horizon. The remedy is to cross-check the flight instruments and trust them.

  • Pre-flight checks

If possible, the initial and external checks should be carried out before dark – it’s much easier – otherwise your student must use a torch to ensure that the checks are no less thorough than by day. Stress that maintaining the aeroplane battery in good condition is even more important at night than by day, so that the time spent with the battery ON doing checks should be minimised – commensurate with not skimping the checks.

  • Taxing

When your student has been shown the lighting and taxiing procedures he should do all the taxiing. Teach that High Intensity Strobe Lights (HISL) should not be used when taxing. Stress that, with limited references, the speed can easily become excessive, so your student must guard against this by checking the wing tips frequently.

  1. Take-off
  2. Show that when the aircraft is correctly aligned for take-off, the lights appear to converge ahead of the nose. Brief your student to remember the appearance of the runway and lights at this point because it is used to assist the judgement of the touchdown.
  3. Teach your student to select the lift off and initial climb attitudes using the external cues of the lights at the far end of the runway but to transfer to instruments before the lights cease to be usable; and to use instruments as his primary reference until a safe height is reached.
  4. Stress that the initial climb attitude and transition to a normal climb are exactly the same as by day – but using instruments.
  • Circuit

The circuit pattern by night is exactly the same as that by day but stress that:

  1. Diurnal wind effects may accentuate drift at circuit height.
  2. Listening to others’ RT calls aids situational awareness and locating circuit traffic, so making calls in the right place is even more important.
  • Flarepath Demonstration

Carry out a flarepath demonstration to show shallow, normal and steep approaches and that the approach path is judged primarily by the spacing of the lights and use of the PAPIs. The demonstration is similar to the one used in Exercise 13 to show assessment of the approach path:

  1. Fly further than normal downwind, in order to roll out on final at the normal height but below the ideal approach to show that the runway edge lights tend to merge into a continuous line of light and the PAPIs show a low approach.
  2. Regain and maintain the correct approach path to show the “string of pearls” effect of the spacing of the runway edge lights and the two red/two white PAPIs.
  3. Finally, go high to show the edge lights appear widely spaced and three or four white the PAPIs.
  4. Give control to your student to go around.
  • Approach and Landing
  1. Remind your student that diurnal wind effects can cause marked changes of drift down final and that tracking the centre-line accurately may be harder at night than by day.
  2. Teach how to judge the height to start the flare by the appearance of the edge lights and the use of the lights at the far end of the runway to select the landing attitude.
  3. Teach your student to land with and without the aid of the landing lamp.
  4. Although you can expect a good level of accuracy by this stage, the main requirement is for landings to be consistently safe.
  5. As it is often difficult to judge the speed when turning off the runway after landing, ensure your student checks that the speed is sufficiently low to allow a safe turn to be made.
  • Engine failure after take-off

Engine Failure After Take-off are not practiced at night but in the trips leading up to night flying, remind your student of possible landing areas, should the worst happen at night. The basic principle of establishing the glide without delay remains paramount; usable landing areas are usually unlit, so advise your student to turn towards a “black hole” and use the landing lights to help with the landing itself. Making a MAYDAY call is a relatively high priority (ATC may not notice you descending!) but not at the expense of flying the aeroplane.

  • Night navigation

There is one night navigation lesson in the syllabus. Pre-flight stress that:

  1. It is vital to check the operating hours of potential diversion airports, to ensure their availability.
  2. Weather forecasts must be studied particularly carefully – it’s difficult to see bad weather approaching or to avoid cloud at night.

In the air, you should emphasize that basic visual navigation techniques are the same by night and day, except that usable fix features are less plentiful and must be chosen carefully. Lighted areas, particularly small towns are good but roads – unless they carry heavy traffic or have street lighting (unlikely in rural areas) – are not. In bright moonlight, water features stand out well. Encourage your student to have a good radio aids navigation plan to back up visual navigation.


  • Poor flying accuracy is usually due to insufficient use of instruments,  whilst erratic circuit patterns are the result of over-concentration on them.

Stress: Lookout (including circuit spacing), Attitude (Attitude indicator), Instruments (performance instruments) – and the correct balance between all three.

  • On runways without centre-line lighting, students tend to line up for take-off, and approach to land, near the left hand side of the runway. Stress that the edge lights are some distance off the centre-line and the need to use the centre of the flarepath.
  • Inaccurate circuit patterns and poor centre-line tracking on final are often caused by the student forgetting that the wind at circuit altitude is usually stronger (and veered) from that experienced during daylight operations with a similar surface wind. Remind him to make appropriate drift allowances.
  • Many students have trouble with judging the roundout height. Re-demo/re-teach as necessary and be patient. Often, when using landing lights students tend to “fly down the beam”, ignoring essential peripheral cues and flaring late. If you suspect this a problem, teach landing without the light initially.
  • Many students taxi too fast at night, so stress the need for frequent speed checks by noting the rate at which the lights pass the wing tips.