Night Flight and Landings
Just safety returned from my first and only cross country night flight, boy what an experience that was! Amazing views but whole different feel for flying and especially landing.
We took off out of Gateway airport at dusk and headed south for Coolidge, Eloy and then caught the I 10 down toward Tucson and practiced a half dozen landings at Marana. I am very glad I know the area really well both day and night as it helps with spacial awareness and navigating.
The flight down was pretty neat however the night started on the wrong note as my headlamp batteries were dead and I wasn’t able to adjust my seat very well, but as PIC I had to make the best of it and push on. The first landing came as a bit if a scare as I almost landed without the landing light – oops, new checklist item! Good thing my instructor caught it at the last minute and had me flick it on as we were about 20 ft off the runway. On the plus side, I had a pretty stable approach and was able to touch it down without too much trouble. The next few came even a bit smoother and it sure did help to have the light on sooner to see the runway and aiming points.
After our 6 touch and goes we climbed back up to cruising altitude and headed back to Gateway to practice more landings on the big strip with tower communications. We managed to rack up 15 landings total and probably 10 of those were decent and 3 were spectacular, pretty good results for the first adventure night landing.
Tomorrow (later today) I write the FAA written aeronautical knowledge exam and then immediately start preparing for my check-ride in a few weeks. The check ride is basically a full day with a federal examiner where we do a 3 to 4 hour oral exam where I can expected to recite both aeronautical knowledge and practical applications and procedures and then we take to the air for a 3 hr flight to perform all the private pilot maneuvers without any hiccups. Every pilot has very strong memories of their first check-ride and they say the experience carries with you your entire career.