Friday, May 05, 2006

First Night Flight...

TUESDAY, MAY 2, 2006

Ok, I guess the title should read first single engine night flight. It had a different feeling walking into the flight school at night, the airport was quiet and hardly any activity. I went through the usual paperwork and was handed the clipboard and keys to 2746C. I went out to preflight with flashlight in hand and was joined by my instructor. When the preflight was complete we saddled up and went over some of the keys to a safe night flight. We discussed the keys to a safe departure, the use of lights and the effect on other aircraft. My CFI reminded me that once airborne the horizon looks black or blends together and I will need to get on instruments and scan out to the sides of the aircraft until clear of obstacles. We also discussed lighting, black holes, emergency procedures and places to land.

Start up complete, checklist complete, I flip on the taxi light and head to the run up area. It sure looks different and the wing tip clearances now concern me even thought I am on center line. It's just a night thing and my typical Mr. Conservative. Run up complete, I taxi to the hold short for "my" final checks, fuel both, fuel on, trim set for take off, mixture full rich, flaps up. Ok a quick call to announce intentions.....Brandywine traffic Cessna 2746C departing 27, Brandywine. I hit the strobes and taxi into position. We're off, maintaining runway heading and then noise abatement. WOW! There are lights everywhere! I locate Route 30 and make my way to follow that to 40N (Chester County). I offered to go direct MXE then turn to follow the 301* radial for 9.7 miles but my CFI rather pilotage. I guess it didn't really matter to me since I was like a sponge soaking it ALL in. At 2500 feet tooling along I see Exton to my right, Coatesville off in the distance and west Chester at my 7 o' clock. Final y I see the beacon for 40N while I continue on along Rt. 30. I then turn south and announce Chester County Traffic, Cessna 2746C will be over flying the field North to South at 2500 to reposition for a 45* entry to downwind r/w 29 Chester county. I click up the lights and just like that there it is, pretty as could be. I continue out and turn to my right followed by the downwind entry to 29. I continue to base then final and I am waaaaaay high with no shot at "getting there" unless I fall like a thanks. I call a missed and go around this time getting my act together for a real nice landing. Clear the runway with traffic on final I announce and taxi back, in the dark. I didn't want to have lights in that pilots face so I cut all taxi and landing lights, the strobes were off after I cleared the runway. As we taxi along we discuss what was right and what was wrong with my pattern. I need to relax and do what I know to do, I was late taking out the power and while looking for ground clues I was holding the yoke which had me in level flight longer. Lessons learned, I now was rolling for takeoff. Following noise abatement at 40 N I flow nicely into the pattern. On to base then final I make a very nice landing on each of the next two go rounds.

With landings at 40 N complete I head for home. I dial in the MXE VOR and set up for my 54* outbound radial to N99. Now only 5 miles out I am having a hard time getting a fix on the airport then finally the beacon appears. I can also make out the blinking red light on the highschool in the downwind for 27 and crab for a crosswind to keep my ground track correct. Already through my landing checks I pull the power and add a notch of flaps. Turning base, adding flaps and turning final adding the last notch of flaps I slip my way into N99 for a ok landing that had a short skip. I'm happy to be home, night flight one in the books. I am up again on Thursday.

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