For pilots to be able to carry passengers at night, they must have a night rating, and have performed one take off and landing at night in the previous 90 days. Through the summer, it becomes difficult to maintain that currency, but now that the nights have started drawing in, I was able to take a short local flight in the dark, and have made this video of the trip.
Flying at night is completely different from a daytime trip. If you’re VFR, then you’ll find you’ll have to adapt to the different way towns, roads, cities and landmarks look in the dark. Perception of distance and height changes, and there are some optical illusions that you have to watch for. On the take off, you’ll quickly lose the horizon in the first part of the climb, and so you’re practically instrument flying for 30 seconds or so.
Taxing around the airport requires a lot of care. Following the yellow lines is harder than you’d think at night, finding exits and holding points can be tricky too. If you don’t know your way around the aerodrome by day, it’s going to be tough to orientate yourself in the pitch black.
You might imagine that finding the runway at night will be a piece of cake, given all those lights, but they are only fully effective when lined up on final. I’ve been practically on top of the airport before, heading crosswind, and haven’t been able to see the runway.
The picture quality on this video is not up to my usual standard, because the GoPros don’t work well at night, but hopefully it’ll give you an idea of what a night flight involves.
Video: Night flying over Kent in a PA28