Night Landings At A Towered Airport


August 11, 2005

One of the prerequisites to getting the Commercial Pilot Certificate is to have 10 night landings at a towered airport.  While I had a good number of take-off/landings at an uncontrolled airport (non-towered) I only had 5 at a controlled airport.

So, last night I had booked a Cessna 152 (since it would be cheaper that way,,, still have the checkride practice and the checkride,,, gotta save those flying pennies <grin>).  Not much to tell other than the fact that I got my 5 takeoffs and landings in; I would have done more except for $$ purposes I wanted to keep my time to under an hour.

They went just fine, I did have a jackrabbit run in front of the plane during landing but it was not a factor as it ran quickly out of my way.  Ya know, as cautious as bunnies are, you would think he/she might have noticed the thing with the flashing lights and big landing lights approaching the runway - maybe this little guy didn't get in his minimum daily allowance of carrots for the its' eyesight. 

Regarding night flying:  I still have to say that it is one surreal experience,,, feels almost like you are looking at a video game flight simulation.  The air was smooth like glass and its' funny how normally familiar terrain looks almost 'alien' when you see it at night.  For once I was really grateful for that big lighted mall that comes a little before the approach path for 31L and 31R and also glad that the Raging Waters water park has the 'lake' lit up a bit at night.

Not a single hitch,, other than having to remind myself, initially that this was a C-152 and not a C-172, so that I needed to remember to be less aggressive in applying right rudder on take-off - the C-152 I was in barely needed a touch of right rudder (note:  we apply right rudder because of a few factors; torque effect ((i.e. the propeller turns to the right so the body of the plane wants to twist to the left when it is relatively slow during takeoffs)), P-factor ((i.e., the descending stroke of the propeller blade at the angle of attack it is at during takeoff, takes a bigger 'bite' of air than the ascending blade, also serving to turn the plane to the left during take-off)) and to some degree, spiraling slipstream ((imagine the prop rotating to the left as it does and creating a mini slipstream of spiraling air which circles around the longitudinal axis of the plane and strikes the vertical stabilizer from the left as the spiraling slipstream comes up from under the fuselage to wrap around and hit the left side of the vertical stabilizer - pushing the plane to the left as well)).  Below is a diagram of spiraling slipstream (referred to by some as corkscrewing slipstream).

Ooops, I hope the latter wasn't more than you wanted to know, just trying to be thorough! :0)

I had a great time, last night and have to get out of here to the airport to do my 'specialty landings' practice (solo) in the Arrow III at noon, so I better end this entry now!

P.S.  The Designated Examiner just called to give me the particulars of the cross-country she wants me to plan for the checkride (I should point out that the entire cross-country,,, barely even a small part of it is flown, it is largely used to demonstrate planning ability and to generate some questions during the checkride).  I'm to plan a cross-country to Fresno and do performance calculations for a takeoff and landing over a 50 foot obstacle.

 Below graphic designed by: Jeff Bucchino,
"The Wizard of Draws" (copyright owner)

Good Flights!

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