Preparation and Preflight for Night Operations

Night flying requires that pilots are aware of, and operate within, their abilities and limitations. Although careful planning of any flight is essential, night flying demands more attention to the details of preflight preparation and planning.

Preparation for a night flight includes a thorough review of the available weather reports and forecasts with particular attention given to temperature/dew point spread. A narrow temperature/dew point spread may indicate the possibility of fog. Emphasis should also be placed on wind direction and speed, since its effect on the airplane cannot be as easily detected at night as during the day.

On night cross-country flights, select and use appropriate aeronautical charts to include the appropriate adjacent charts. Course lines should be drawn in black to be more distinguishable in low-light conditions. Note prominently lighted checkpoints along the prepared course. Rotating beacons at airports, lighted obstructions, lights of cities or towns, and lights from major highway traffic all provide excellent visual checkpoints. If a global positioning system (GPS) is being used for navigation, ensure that it is working properly before the flight. All necessary waypoints should be loaded properly before the flight and the database should be checked for accuracy prior to taking off and then checked again once in flight. The use of radio navigation aids and communication facilities add significantly to the safety and efficiency of night flying.

Check all personal equipment prior to flight to ensure proper functioning and operation. All airplane lights should be checked for operation by turning them on momentarily during the preflight inspection. Position lights can be checked for loose connections by tapping the light fixture. If the lights blink while being tapped, determine the cause prior to flight. Parking ramps should be checked with a flashlight prior to entering the airplane. During the day, it is quite easy to see stepladders, chuckholes, wheel chocks, and other obstructions, but at night, it is more difficult and a check of the area can prevent taxiing mishaps.