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How do you feel about flying your SEL at night?

Posted By:
Ralph King
#1 Posted: 6/24/2010 16:57:04

Have done alot of single engine flying at night,, weather related in the summer, weather related in the winter with alot of instrument time, approaches, etc.

Funny though, the older you get, the less bullet proof one gets.

When I was flying a Bell Jet Ranger for the owner, he like flying from a business meeting to home at night.   He ask me if I was  Ok with it, I said, sure.  He said, well you have a light you can turn on in an emergency.

If I had been homest, I would has said, no. and the light is only good to let one see just what you are about to crash into in an auto rotation to the ground.




Christopher Carlson
IAC MemberHomebuilder or Craftsman
#2 Posted: 6/24/2010 21:29:54


My plane before my Hiperbipe was a pretty little Grumman AA1B. I had more night flight hours than daylight flight  in it (I exaggerate but not that much...). I would look at the weather, MEA's and highways along my route and launch!

I'd pull the canopy open and cruise as low as was prudent...stars above, a huge Moon and the lights of I-20, I-30, etc. winding thru towns and cities as my guide...quite stunning actually.

I actually found flying at night to be LESS stressful; navigating was easier, IFR (I Follow Roads) was easier and finding the airport was easier (lots of blinkie and non-blinkie lights). Lots less traffic too!. I didn't worry about my airplane doing anything at night that I don't worry about during the day.

Once I got over the Phobia of "autorough" at night I found I really liked it. Still Do.




Leon Adelstone
#3 Posted: 6/30/2010 18:56:53

Roger, that, Chris.  I also had a Yankee, once, and flew considerbly at night.  I love it.  I don't fly much at night, now; and am preparing to drop my Med , sell my Cherokee, and go Light Sport.  but I still love flying on a beautful summer night.  You can see the lights of the various towns and cities for miles and miles.  I'll miss it.

Years ago when I was "running wild" single; I would take girls on a flight over the city.  It was an especially beautiful (and romantic) sight with all the lights, etc.

Chris St Germain
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerAirVenture Volunteer
#4 Posted: 7/1/2010 22:11:00

Ralph, I'm also airplane and rotor-rated. The "beauty" of a forced  landing in the heli is the small area that you can put it into, as you know, compared with several hundred feet for a fixed-wing. Of course, we all know that the aircraft doesn't know it's dark, and is no more prone to failure. The risk isn't in the A/C quitting, but the consequenses if it does. Night crashes have a much higher fatality rate than day.


Autorotating to the ground shouldn't be terribly risky, unless you can't see it. That's the part about night flight in the heli that bothers me. At least in a FW, your rate of decent might be 400-500 in a lot of typical SEL, and if you have any chance at all to flare a little, you're not going to hit the ground too hard, although you might hit an obstacle in front of you, of course. When the heli is coming down at 1500 FPM, it's bad news if you don't get to flare in time.


From my reading, it sounds like fast collisions with the ground vertically result in some bad back-compression problems, whereas in the FW with higher groundspeed and lower ROD, your speed most likely will be dissipated more gradually, meaning less serious injuries. Both are unpleasant to think about, but if it's particularly dark, or over rough terrain, I think I'd prefer crashing in the 'plane. However, if I was a more experienced rotor guy like you, I'd probably change my opinion.


Many years ago, when I gave my first safety talk as the new Safety Officer in a state pilots organization, it was October, with Daylight time about to expire. I gave many tips about night flying, the last being the old saw about a forced landing: "Right before you get to the ground, turn on your landing light. If you don't like what you see, turn it off." Funny to talk about, but I hope to never be there.



Tony Turiano
Vintage Aircraft Association Member
#5 Posted: 7/1/2010 22:26:55
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