Monday, April 21, 2014

Solo Night Flight Without Lights

I used to fly back in high school and University. As in fly single engine planes. Here's one of my hair-raising night flight stories.

I had gone to the field (St. John's International Airport) for some touch and go night practice out of the Flight School located at the airport. Touch and Go is when you take-off and land repeatedly to practice landing and take-off.

While on take-off as I passed the end of the runway I lost interior lights and dashboard instrument lighting. Oh shit! I was in the black, in the air, could not land straight ahead, and I had to fly a standard circuit to land, with no lighting.

So, don't panic, what was I doing? Right, adjusting flaps and modulating the power. Ok, finish the flaps and then finish adjusting the power a bit based on the sound of the engine. Now, dig out my flashlight and stick it in my mouth so I can keep my hands on the stick and dials while checking everything.

Now, with the flashlight in my mouth I run my checks and then radio the tower to let them know I had lost internal lighting and would need to make a forced approach. This is when you have something wrong and need to land now. It was a slow night at about 2 AM (I used to go flying after working my shift until 1 AM at a Sub sandwich joint) and tower radioed the Ok to land.

I let tower know I was flying with a flashlight in my mouth and might be slow to toggle the radio. They suggested they could turn on the low visibility lighting for jet airliners on approach in fog. They said it would light up my internal a bit and help but would save it until I was a about 1000ft or so off approach. Sure, I'll take all the help I can get.

With flashlight in my mouth, waving it around to check all my dials while on approach, I performed a perfect landing, though a little nerve wracking. The landing lights were insanely bright but did light up the cockpit a bit and helped.

That was the end of that flight for me that night. I taxied into the flight school. Parked. Tied down the aircraft and filed the lighting issue with the flight desk attendant. That was the end of flying that night for me.

2 comments:

Jeff said...

Hair raising! Did you get any sleep that night?

Mark Thistle said...

I don't remember afterwards. I used to stay up so late from work I am sure I probably just went home and crashed (figuratively).