I haven’t done much night flying lately but I sure do miss it. Flying at night is one of those experiences I will forever enjoy, especially when flying over cities. However it is important to be prepared for night flying as there is an increase in risk in comparison to day time flying. There are numerous illusions that a pilot may face at night and as such it is important that a pilot can recognize these illusions and know how to deal with them.
A common illusion that a pilot may face when landing at night is the “black hole” approach. I personally have experienced this before while doing a visual approach on 9R at Melbourne (MLB) at night. The black hole approach usually occurs when landing is made from over water or over an unlit terrain where the runway lights are the only source of light. While doing the approach, a pilot may appear to be higher than he/she really is and as a result a pilot may fly a lower approach and run the risk of striking objects or even landing short of the runway. Pilots should also be extra cautious at airports where they can adjust the brightness of the runway lights. Bright runway and approach lights can cause the illusion of the runway being closer resulting in a higher approach. Also, if flying into a towered airport at night, it is completely okay to ask the controllers to adjust the lighting if it is too bright.
Before night flying a pilot should also avoid bright lights for at least thirty minutes before flying. This is because the rods located in our eyes are needed for night vision and it usually takes about thirty minutes for them to become adjusted. Some precautions that I would take when flying at night would be dimming the cockpit lights or even turning it off so that night adaptation is not compromised. I would especially dim the instrument panel lights especially that of a glass cockpit.
As I said before night flying is so much fun, but it’s all about being safe and taking the necessary precautions while having a blast!