Night Flight – Emergency! and You Can’t See!

Hello again! If you are reading this, you have probably read the first edition on the subject of night flying. – If you haven’t yet, here is a link to check it out

But some of you might ask, “Why is this even a discussion? Flying is exactly the same at night as it is during the day…” Meanwhile others out there might reply that, “It may be exactly the same, except for the fact that you cant see!”

It’s true though, that night flying (particularly when it comes to single engine airplanes) is a very polarizing subject. Night flying is not the same as flying during the day for all of the obvious reasons all connected to visual reference. But at the same time it is exactly the same in as that the airplane runs exactly the same at night. The flight characteristics are identical. The engine runs identically the same. In fact, the only thing that is going to be different and affect the actual fly-ability of the airplane is that the air is usually much calmer and you will probably have a much smoother ride.

But what about in the event of an actual emergency? Looking down at the ground, depending on where you are and what the weather/cloud-cover/moonlight is like, you are either going to see a mass of darkness broken up by a sprinkling of lights, or a sea of light broken up by chunks of darkness. – So where do you head? – Lets assume that landing at an airport is out of the question and you are going to have to prepare yourself for an off airport landing, where do you go?

During the day you would have already ran through your emergency checklist and be clipping along at whatever the best glide speed is for your particular airplane and would probably be aiming for the emptiest area you can find. – But at night, that is a lot harder to judge, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area below you. Do you head for the darkness and hope for the best when you get there? Or do you head for the concentration of lights and hope you can find an empty spot to set it down when you get there? Both have their unknowns. Is that big dark spot below you an empty field, or is it a neighborhood experiencing a power outage, or is it a lake? You wont know until you get too close and are already committed. What if you head for the lights, but when you get there you cant find an empty spot to set the plane down? Again, you wont know until you get too close to try anywhere else.

These are questions that have plagued pilots for generations. And unfortunately I don’t really have an answer for you.. There are different schools of thought on the subject, and both have their pros and cons. I know what I would do – or at least I know what I would do in theory…In a real world scenario the circumstances may completely change my actions and decisions. – But I don’t want to tell you what I would do, because in an emergency situation like this each person and each scenario is going to call for a different set of actions and decisions.

There are things to remember, for instance, just because we can see a well-lit highway below us does not necessarily mean that is a good option to land. Think about the people on that roadway. Is it empty, or is it crowded?

Sometimes we don’t have time for options and we just have to brace and hope for the best, but other times we have time, time to think and decide and weigh the options.

The one thing I will say definitively, is that it is out duty as pilot in command to ensure the safety of not only ourselves, and our passengers, but of people on the ground. We put ourselves up in the air. We are the ones experiencing an emergency. Our emergency does not give us the right to put other’s lives in danger.

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions and experienced on this subject! Comment below and let me know what you think!

Night Flying – Yes, or No?



Stay with us for more posts like this. I will be posting again about some more helpful tips that will help you save money while you fly!




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