MIm20c

Increasing risk to get more flying time

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I find myself with very little free time during the week. Between two young kids, work, home projects, and other responsibilities the ability to get away for a few hours is difficult. I really want to build some more time/experience and earn my commercial but the only solution I can come up with is to push into the night. 
 

I really enjoy how peaceful it is at night but I’m well aware of the additional risk that it brings.  Anyone else find the only free time available is from 8-12 every night?  Suggestions to mitigate risk? 

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I love flying at night, but I won't fly over the open desert here at night, no visual references. Maybe @Raptor05121 can chime in. If I recall Alex did a lot of night flying as that was about the only time he could get in because of his work schedule.

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Choose your runway (if calm) that has a best chance of a successful off airport landing. Climb while in the pattern till comfortable, follow roads, farmland, beaches...avoid urban areas.

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Obvious added risk comes with landing off field in an engine out (hard to mitigate that one). There is some increased risk VFR into IMC if clouds are around, and some extra terrain risk. To mitigate, switching on the IFR skills mentally really helps if instrument rated. I tend to avoid small nontowered strips at night, or if I must use one, I load up and follow an instrument approach to the runway even if VFR.  Use published departure procedures in the dark even if VFR. Or simply just file IFR. Use modern cockpit tools to avoid terrain, including the ipad (e.g. hazard advisor on Foreflight).  

 

Edited by DXB
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Where are you located? I had to do all of my insurance-required training hours in November out of Lapeer airport and after the A&P/IA was off-duty as he was also the CFII there. So all of my Mooney training has been in the dark. It was interesting during my first solo flight to fly two hours home during daylight hours. I'm leery about flying at night where I'm at (In the U.P.) as it is very difficult to identify roadways outside of the heavy tree coverage. I'd rather pursue such night ops over the flat farm lands of the Lower Peninsula or Central/Southern Wisconsin.  

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In the NE... darkness comes early.

Usually before work ends...

Fear of flying in the dark is natural.

Overcoming fear usually takes training and experience...

If that fear is single engine ops and engine outs... that’s a tough one...

Study your statistics... around here, Engine outs have been generally stuck on one MSer... as long as he keeps his Mooney the rest of us are going to be safe... :)

Most of us expect to have one engine out in our lifetime....

I did my IFR training, mostly at night and on weekends... in a December in NJ...

getting comfortable with night flying...?  helps to become comfortable with training at night with somebody that is pretty night current...

Go get your night currency up to snuff using your CFI that you intend to study your comm skills with... combine them together...

 

Mitigating risk is pretty much the same day or night... just done with extra diligence...

  • avoid running out of gas.
  • avoid running into clouds.

 

Snow is coming... cleaning off all of the surfaces is good house keeping...

Ice will be here too... have a method for cleaning off the ice as well...

how much risk is actually increased by flying at night? 1 in 5,000 in place of 1 in 10,000? tiny numbers whatever they are.... it all starts with currency.

How does that sound?

PP thoughts only, not a CFI...

Best regards,

-a-

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Depends where you are. If youre close to bigger cities. Night flying isnt an issue. But the momment i get out of the LA and SD basin, where there arent any lights, im usually not a big fan of it. 

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1 hour ago, MIm20c said:

I find myself with very little free time during the week. Between two young kids, work, home projects, and other responsibilities the ability to get away for a few hours is difficult. I really want to build some more time/experience and earn my commercial but the only solution I can come up with is to push into the night. 
 

I really enjoy how peaceful it is at night but I’m well aware of the additional risk that it brings.  Anyone else find the only free time available is from 8-12 every night?  Suggestions to mitigate risk? 

Do you have a good gps navigator with a decent display and terrain awareness?   That helps a lot.

 

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I have a lot of night time flying.  For years I would fly out early in the morning, arrive at a destination between 7 and 8 AM. Flying home after the workday ended, I would get home well after dark.  With planning, flying at night is a minimal risk.  The plane doesn't know or care but darkness does limit your options.  What do you do when the alternator quits?  When was the last time the battery was replaced?  How long will it power what equipment? Vacuum pump, what will you do?  Rough running engine?  What is the terrain like? Weather?  Only you can answer these questions and evaluate your risk.

I will continue flying occasionally at night despite having a partial power failure at night.  And a cylinder departing the case on short final after a 500 mile trip at night. And a broken pushrod tube that dumped quarts of oil at the end of a 350 mile trip at night. And a complete engine failure (75 hours SFREM) just after sunrise. 

Despite all that mechanical mayhem, flying at night is usually nice.  Less traffic, ATC has more time to point them out and traffic is easier to spot.  Isn't as hot.  Usually less bumps. 

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2 hours ago, carusoam said:

If that fear is single engine ops and engine outs... that’s a tough one...

Most of us expect to have one engine out in our lifetime....

Well, I’ve had my one engine out 11 years ago resulting in a forced landing (inconclusive reason), so I hope that completes my lifetime share. If it happened at night I doubt if I would be around to join in this discussion. For that reason I don’t fly at night SE unless it has to be an early morning departure for a limited time to get home to minimise any risk, plus my Mooney lives at an airfield that does not have runway lighting anyway.

The reality is our love of flying has risks and we cannot mitigate against everything. Only yesterday I flew for about 2 hours during a 3.5 hour flight over an unforecast 2,000’ tops and 200’ base with poor viz underneath. That didn’t  allow much of a chance to find a suitable site to put down in the event of an engine out.

A compromise might be to do some of your required night flying in a simulator or perhaps plan to depart with as much remaining daylight as possible and therefore return in minimal night conditions.

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2 hours ago, carusoam said:

In the NE... darkness comes early.

Usually before work ends...

Fear of flying in the dark is natural.

Overcoming fear usually takes training and experience...

If that fear is single engine ops and engine outs... that’s a tough one...

Study your statistics... around here, Engine outs have been generally stuck on one MSer... as long as he keeps his Mooney the rest of us are going to be safe... :)

Most of us expect to have one engine out in our lifetime....

I wouldn’t count on that. I’m at two and counting plus one other very close call.

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2 hours ago, carusoam said:

 Most of us expect to have one (more) engine out in our lifetime....

PP thoughts only, not a CFI...

Best regards,

-a-

Updated to better represent BK’s input...

See if I got that right? :)

Best regards,

-a-

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When flying at night stack the deck in your favor the best you can, clear sky, full or near full moon, familar with the area...etc. I also fly higher than normal. You mentioned a commercial ticket, are you Instrumentt rated?

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I learned in WV, at an untowered but lit field with no approaches. Later did my Instrument training at the same obstructed field, often after work, through much of a winter. One early flight, we left after work wearing sunglasses, but I had left my glasses in the car . . . . So naturally the landing light blew when I turned it on. We logged that night landing with sunglasses, preferable to blurry, untinted nearsighted squinting for the trees on final that I needed to level off to avoid.

It's all about training and preparation.

Good luck, and have fun! Night flying is great--cooler temperatures, smoother air and a whole different kind of beauty.

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This came up in another thread recently.  I'll just cut and paste my response...

I love flying at night. The air is usually much calmer, visibility is greater, there's less traffic, and I can easily navigate by the stars and the lights of cities and towns along my route.  I can usually pick out my destination airport when I'm 40+ nm out, something that's impossible during the day.  Plus, it's just so peaceful and beautiful at night.

That said, I take a few extra precautions when I fly at night.  I fly as high as practical for the length of trip.  I try to stay within glide distance of a "good" landing area (interstate highways or airports).  I do a very thorough preflight, preferably before dark.  I keep a red headlamp on my head and another flashlight clipped to my shirt.  I use flight following for all cross country flights, even very short ones.  I only fly over "flat" terrain, no mountains.  And most importantly, I try to stay current and proficient at it, easier to do in the winter when it gets dark earlier.  Approximately 1/4 of my landings are at night and 1/5 of my total time is at night.

Everyone should have their own risk matrix and I won't try to tell anyone theirs is right or wrong.  Stay safe up there!

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I just don’t do it anymore. Aside from the usual risk management reasons, which I embrace, at 58 I feel that my night vision and depth perception isn’t quite what it was when I was younger.

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11 hours ago, Skates97 said:

I love flying at night, but I won't fly over the open desert here at night, no visual references. Maybe @Raptor05121 can chime in. If I recall Alex did a lot of night flying as that was about the only time he could get in because of his work schedule.

I know Alex has flown a lot of hours at night. I have the bright led landing light he uses sitting on my desk for my mechanic to sign off when he gets time. 

11 hours ago, ArtVandelay said:

Choose your runway (if calm) that has a best chance of a successful off airport landing. Climb while in the pattern till comfortable, follow roads, farmland, beaches...avoid urban areas.

The airport I’ll use for night flying has a 25 mile radius of farm land. 

11 hours ago, DXB said:

Obvious added risk comes with landing off field in an engine out (hard to mitigate that one). There is some increased risk VFR into IMC if clouds are around, and some extra terrain risk. To mitigate, switching on the IFR skills mentally really helps if instrument rated. I tend to avoid small nontowered strips at night, or if I must use one, I load up and follow an instrument approach to the runway even if VFR.  Use published departure procedures in the dark even if VFR. Or simply just file IFR. Use modern cockpit tools to avoid terrain, including the ipad (e.g. hazard advisor on Foreflight).  

 

Good suggestion on using instrument approaches for all landings. Unfortunately the airport does not allow approaches at night in actual. I’ll have to divert to the other airport for that. 

11 hours ago, larryb said:

Move the home projects into the nighttime hours.

Current projects involve a skill saw etc to make any progress. Not sure my neighbors or kids I just got to sleep would approve. The second kid put our first floor renovation on hold...need to push on. 

11 hours ago, tigers2007 said:

Where are you located? I had to do all of my insurance-required training hours in November out of Lapeer airport and after the A&P/IA was off-duty as he was also the CFII there. So all of my Mooney training has been in the dark. It was interesting during my first solo flight to fly two hours home during daylight hours. I'm leery about flying at night where I'm at (In the U.P.) as it is very difficult to identify roadways outside of the heavy tree coverage. I'd rather pursue such night ops over the flat farm lands of the Lower Peninsula or Central/Southern Wisconsin.  

SW Michigan, lots of farm land. However, lots of places I’d like to fly to put me over trees like you said or buildings.  Can’t go in circles all night need to get out and stretch its wings. 

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If that's what you have to do, go for it.  Engine doesn't know its nighttime.  I should be doing likewise for the IR, though reading instruments in a dark cockpit is a special challenge.  One things for certain, if you can do commercial maneuvers acceptably in the dark, you'll excel in the daytime.

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15 hours ago, MIm20c said:

I find myself with very little free time during the week. Between two young kids, work, home projects, and other responsibilities the ability to get away for a few hours is difficult. I really want to build some more time/experience and earn my commercial but the only solution I can come up with is to push into the night. 
 

I really enjoy how peaceful it is at night but I’m well aware of the additional risk that it brings.  Anyone else find the only free time available is from 8-12 every night?  Suggestions to mitigate risk? 

I generally don't fly at night because during the week, I work from 7AM to 7 PM, so I know I'm too fatigued to be at least 90% in terms of function.  If your only free time is 8-12, I'd suspect fatigue would be as large a safety factor as darkness

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Let’s discuss methods of lowering risk...

Do you continuously calculate glide distance to your nearest airport?

Do you select to cruise at high altitudes?

 

These came to mind while writing a response to somebody else’s gliding challenge... :)

I got to watch glide rings on ForeFlight while cruising around in somebody else’s plane...

Have you seen all the EFBs including glide rings in their apps?

Getting it set up properly will work wonders.

Best regards,

-a-

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My first IFR trip after ticket was night IMC over the W Va mountains to an approach that ended with fog rolling over the field in CHO and being essentially minimum flight vis on landing - which promptly went down to I can barely taxi back to the ramp.  Aah. To be young and invincible. No more of that. 

I am am willing to fly night and some night IMC these days (I find it enjoyable), but my risk matrices are much more evolved than back in invincible days.  For instance I now choose two or three - night / IMC / inhospitable terrain.  One of my milk run trips used to be LYH to AGC or there abouts over WVa.  VFR night was ok, but I would hoscotch to fly over airports such that my total time out of gliding distance from an airport was like 15 minutes.  Make your own risk matrix and stick with it.   Flying IFR (but VMC) I wouldn’t accept a shortcut from ATCT- one night one of the airline guys on freq chimed in that it was a good risk mitigation idea when ATC gave me some attitude about my odd routing.

I used to do occasional medevac rotor for work (sat in the back). Winter over Allegheny mountains flying 100’ above wind farms or flying IMC in a bubble canopy was at one point exhilarating.  Then I had a family and decided I wouldn’t miss that type of flying anymore.  Life changes. 

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Well, it is no secret that I am very against SE night flying.  I am a professional pilot who has been in a SE crash... had the accident happened at night (the departure was planned for night, but I talked the passengers into moving the departure up) I would VERY likely be dead.  When the engine stopped making power right after takeoff, the only saving grace for me was the fact that I could see where to put her down. I had to make a DRASTIC maneuver to avoid power lines by diving UNDER them, which I could not have seen in the dark.

 

If I was you, I would be looking for alternatives.  Such as flying on the weekends or EARLY in the morning Before work.  But I am not you and have a horrible experience in my head that screams flying at night with one engine is a really bad idea.   We all have to make our own judgements on what level of risk we are willing to accept.  My mooney is for fun and personal travel.  I have absolutely no reason to increase my risk factor when I fly it.  

 

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My response has absolutely nothing to do with suggestions or comments, regarding mitigating night flying risks.

One of my most favorite magical experiences, is to depart out of the Los Angeles Basin (or any area there for that matter) on a beautiful clear night!  The beauty of the twinkling lights, almost as far reaching as one can see, is still breathtaking to me, after all these years !

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I find myself in a similar dilemma at times where there is too much happening to get time to fly when I want. But for me, after a certain number of hours awake, working (at home or the office), dealing with animal issues (geriatric horses), and everything else, I don't feel I would be giving it my best and getting the best out of night flying. It may have something to do with more circuits around the sun, but regardless, I would treat my night flying the same as I would my daylight flights, i.e. if I can be comfortable with whatever risks I may encounter, I would fly at night.

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