March 2010 Issue

Dark Departure (Night Flying)

Night flying is tricky enough when were current. Dont mix in little recent experience and complacency.

These pages often explore the differences between flying during the day and at night. Weve also been repeat offenders when it comes to emphasizing recent experience with a proposed operation and cautioning about allowing a four- or five-digit number of flight hours cloud our judgment. Despite our wishes to the contrary, its all too frequent when a single event highlights all three of these accident-causing factors. At night, of course, the eye can play various tricks on us. These include false depth perception and autokinesis, where a stationary light appears to move. But even more universal and insidious is our frequent inability to discern the natural horizon at night. Put another way, when flying over remote, unlighted areas, the lack of a natural horizon can make VFR flight problematic at best, and hazardous at worst.

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