I did two flights today having not flown in over a week due to poor weather. My instructor wanted to do some night takeoff and landings, and I wanted some solo time. So I started by doing a couple touch-and-goes, S-turns, and steep turns. Nothing but my touch-and-goes were any good, but it was nice to be out flying. On my way back I was west of Beloit. I knew I would be coming into runway 22, so I decided to fly over Beloit before coming in. It was really the first time I just flew were I felt like flying. By this time, the sun was setting and the skies were lined with red. I called Tower while over Beloit and he cleared me to land. I still had 7 miles to go, but I guess he didn't have anything else going on so I got clearance early. As I was turning base Tower got on and said "Nice sunset, hu?" 63L agreed.
Once I was on the ground it was back to the Jet Center to wait for my instructor. I still had about 15 minutes, and I could have done one more touch-and-go. But in that 15 minutes the sun disappeared and it was a night world.
Taxing at night I found means needing knowing what the painted lines look like so one can determine where they are. We were cleared for runway 32. The takeoff was pretty much the same. I did find that the simulators do not do justice to the flight control lighting at night—instruments are not that easy to see even with the lights on. I would have to rely on the instruments because there really was much to see out the window.
We started by leaving the airport and flying over Janesville at 2,500 feet. We then turned around and asked for some touch-and-goes. When we turned toward the airport, I didn't see it at all. But I could see the beacon and we flew directly at it. As we got closer to the airport, I started to make out the runways and taxi areas. We were given instructions for a right traffic to runway 32. I could not really tell were 32 was when I started turning downwind, but I knew what direction I needed to fly to be downwind. When I started to turn finial I had turned too early, but I could clearly see the runway light. So I few a weird base leg.
The landing itself made use of the VASI lights, and my instructor said I did a good approach. Once over the runway, I could just see the pavement below illuminated by the landing light. But it came up quick. My instructor was telling me to flare, and I was listening. But when the ties met the ground I hadn't expected it yet. Our landing was fine, but the runway had snuck up on me.
I dropped the flaps and hit the power so we could going around and try it a few more times. Flying in the pattern was mostly watching the instruments during turns. I noticed a good deal more traffic then I saw during the day as it is easy to see strobes on a black sky.
On my next landing I was ready for the runway, and I was told I did fine. As we were flying for the 3rd touch-and-go, Tower asked if we would like runway 22. We had been using 32 because there were really no winds to worry about. I asked for 22 just so I would have to find it. We did the third touch-and-go without issue, and then my instructor wanted me to try landing without the landing light.
Not having a landing light means I can not see the pavement at all. The approach was the same, but when we knew we were over the runway, there was nothing to see. I watched the perspective of the runway light change and I could see the pavement when the red strobe beacon flashed. We came in still having a little throttle and kept a flare going, hovering over the runway. Then, the gear touched down and we cut the rest of the power. It was a little strange not having any other indications, but it did work.
After we touched down, we noticed a vibration in the landing gear. Unsure of what it was we decided not to chance it and take the plane back.
Night flying is really neat. I always loved coming in at night to Chicago, especially in the winter. Now I have seen it from the cockpit and it is amazing. We have some more night flying to do, but I think I understand the procedure.
The picture today is blurry but is of Janesville from the air at night. Liz tried several tracking night shots, but all were blurry. I think it was a combination of our speed at the low altitude, and that Liz was shooting at full-exposure rather then -1 or -2 F-stops. If we try it again sometime, I try slow flight and have her make the adjustments. But I do think Liz enjoyed the flight.