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NIGHT FLYING CONSIDERATIONS



Seeing at Night

Our eyes work different at night than during the day. Deep inside the eyes are tiny “rods” and “cones”. The rods, more so than the cones, are what gives us our night vision if using off center viewing rather than trying to see something with your peripheral vision.


During the day, objects are best viewed looking straight at it, unlike during the night when light enters the eye at angle creating a blind spot in the center of vision.

A good rule of thumb is it takes approximately 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to darkness, depending on the individual. Also, consider using a red flashlight, while conducting your preflight.

TIPS:

  • Do not wear sunglasses after sunset, it impairs your night vision.

  • Try to force your eyes to view off center by scanning the area.

  • Move your eyes slower while scanning, than you would at night.


Using O2 at Night

The FAA recommends that pilots use supplemental oxygen (O2) while flying at night above 5,000 feet measured sea level (MSL). Oxygen helps those tiny rods in your eyes to work better, which allows you to have better night vision.


Flying Around at Night

When flying around at night, all pilots should exercise caution and tighter safety practices. It can be hard to see clouds and low visibility areas. An indication of visibly becoming low is the city lights will begin to disappear.



Emergencies at Night

Engine failure while flying over a large body of water such as, the ocean, Great Lakes or even between islands like the Bahamas or Hawaii. It does not sound very comforting and can be very stressful and scary, especially when it is over water at night. Another potentially hazardous part when flying over water, is the water and sky blind together giving no horizon reference. Especially on nights when there is no moon light shining on the ocean.

A couple of good practices to keep in mind, in case of an emergency especially engine failure is to always be in communication with ATC. Being in communication from the start of the flight is easier, than trying to squawk 7700 and trying to make an initial contact with ATC or on the UNICOM.

Also, during the engine failure the FAA recommends to land in a location with no lights, but close to public areas. You would think that trying to land on the interstate or large road is a better choice, but it is not. Power lines, street signs and lights are hard to see at night than during the daytime.


References:

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