Enjoying having a moment to write a short post being on vacations about my last flight.
Since I’ve finished my night flying training some 1,5 years ago, due to the restrictions at our local airports I was not able to fly in the night. Seems the thimgs will chamge soon, giving us more fredom, being able to return from a flight from other island even after sunset.
I flew to Gran Canaria where I made my 1 hour flight on a 1 year old Diamond DA40 with Garmin 1000 cockpit.
First time that I was flying this plane and I have to say it’s awesome. The Garmin does everything for you… Set mixture, propeller pitch angle, autopilot, run-up check and much more… I think that if I’ve learned flying on this plane, I wouldn’t be able to fly the old Pipers or Cessnas… I would simply miss the basis concepts.
Well, back to the night VFR. We took off from the Rwy 03L at Gran Canaria’s airport to the November point for some manouvers. After we took off into the dark, I actually monitored the PFD, al,ost without looking outside. Which is good, but being VFr, I should look outside as well. Arrived over November we have performed some left and right turns at 30 and 45 degrees and a slow flight.
The plane is very well controlled, like the stick performance much more than the DA20’s. The tu na have been actually executed only by looking on the PFD’s artificial horizon, because outside above the sea it was pitch dark and no visual references at all. Lost som altitude, but I’d say lss than 100 feet which I’d personally consider not too bad after so long period without flying in the night. The most important thing is to realise it and to make the necessary corrections.
After our return to the field we have made 1 touch and go and a final landing. Wouldn’t mind to own this plane; flying it is fun and it’s a good preparation for the next step- flying a big airliner.
While some sleep, the others are messing with night landings… But why??? 🙂
Actually it was a quite long day and somehow I was thinking it would be better to have a bed on board of the Piper… So I took my first coffee this year (yes, this year, as I don´t drink coffee 🙂 ) and we have started to go through all the preparations with my instructor.
Back to basics – flight preparations…
Due to some bad weather at Tenerife North aiport (GCXO) we had to change our initial plan and we have decided to go to Lanzarote (GCRR). I was actually quite happy about the fact to land there for the first time in my life, but I was concerned as well, as this would be my first flight to this destination without having seen this airport during the day. Nevermind, the instructor is sitted next to me and he knows the airport (and we have Garmin430 and AirnavPro as well 🙂
Checking all the lights during the outside check
We have checked MET, TAF and NOTAMs and went down to the the apron. After the preflight check we were ready to go. I like to record my flights and to see them later, to learn from my own mistakes, but unfortunately I haven’t noticed until the way back that I left the lens cap on my Gopro… Grrrrr! My landing at Lanzarote was not the best one (we all love bounced landings!!! 🙂 ), so I don´t need to have this recorded :-).
We have departed as usual on Runway 03L and after departure we have turned right to the NE point. Under normal circumstances we should fly bellow 1.000 feet, but to be honest in the night I didn´t like the idea, so we have requested to climb to FL 095 immediately after the departure. As there was no traffic, we were authorized by the ATC able to climb at our discretion. We had some nice tailwinds as well which gave us some nice groundspeeds of around 117kts… Lucky!!! 🙂
I mix this course a bit with my basic instrument flight module, therefore my departure was not visual and I was practically flying until reaching our cruising altitude without looking outside the window… At this altitude I have discovered, that even between the islands over the Atlantic Ocean, there are some visual references, which can help to guide me to the destination.
The view from up there is simply beautiful, and I am starting to love the flying at night!
Getting closer to our destination, we have started our descent at 500ft/minute, which made us even faster. Reaching Sierra point at Lanzarote should be at 1.000 feet, but I didn’t like the idea to fly so low over the sea without having some good references nor to have the runway in sight. Therefore we have requested to proceed to the long final, which was authorized by the ATC prior holding over Sierra point at 3.000 feet. This was great, and I used the opportunity to open the window and make some pictures of Playa Blanca at night. The traffic in front of us showed me as well where the airport was, another great help at night! 🙂
Playa Blanca at night
If I wouldn’t have forgotten to take off the lens cap, I would have some nice pictures of the runway at Lanzarote as well, but unfortunately I only have this one made by my phone:
Final RWY 03 at Lanzarote
The approach was very good, but it is still difficult for me to guess the right height of the plane above the runway to start the flare; nevermind, I´ll find it out! After the touch and go we have returned back to Gran Canaria at 6,500 feet to avoid the wind which we had on the way to our destination.
Arriving at our destination I have requested to proceed to long final again, to not to fly at 1.000 feet above the sea. The ATC was nice and maintained our altirude of 5.000 feet until the LPC VOR, where we should hold until cleared of traffic. We were holding there for 4-5 minutes, in the meantime they were vectoring some 737´s bellow us to the airport. Awesome to be hanging over them in the air! 🙂
I have no idea about IFR holding patterns, so we did it together with my instructor. Basically, he was telling how to fly and I had no idea what I was doing… But anyway, it looks nice on the map:
Holding over LPC VOR
I always like to practice something new. After a couple of minutes we were cleared to land on RWY 03L, the wind was 030/14kts, so very good flying conditions at the end.
Final RWY 03L at GCLP
And finaly you can see the only video recorded that night; landing at Gran Canaria´s El Gando airport. Safe flights!
In addition to my basic instrument flying module I have decided to add a night VFR rating. Basically it is complicated to fly night vfr in Spain, you need to request some 10-14 days in advance a permission, which has to be granted and than you are allowed to fly during the night. So basically even if you have the rating, you are not allowed to land after sundown, only if you have a special permission by the authorities… Spain is simply different. Even our first training flight had to be cancelled because the ATC told us that the permission issued by the authorities was not complete… So the FI had one week to clear all the necessary paperwork and it seemed our permission was ok, only there was some misunderstanding… Finally we got to the plane, which was after a regular check, so everything was in perfect state, except the landing light seemed to not be working… It seemed we had to cancel our flight again. But luckily we had the maintenance guy with us, so he was able to fix the problem and we were ready to go.
Getting our landing light fixed
The taxiing was quite easy, there was sufficient light outside.
Taxi via Juliet to the holding point of the RWY 03L
In the cockpit there was of course less light than during the day, so this was already the first difference. Engine run-up, all the checks following the checklist we were cleared to line up and wait on the runway 03L.
Line up and wait 03L, Canavia 71
The things started to get more serious, haha. The big question was: how is going to be once in the air? The clearance for takeoff came from the tower, so the answer on my question was not far away… Full throttle, paramaters in green, speed alive, rotate into the night. Looking more inside on the instruments than outside; for correct speed, climb, altitude… 500 feet, flap 0, fuel pump off, landing light off and following right turn into the dark. Strange thing is, you don’t realize how deep the darkness bellow the plane is… On the top of that, we had to hold over the bay during the first circuit, so I had to watch the instruments to make a couple of 360 degree turns without seeing any light. I thought always, that from the circuit the runway light could be seen, but they are not! The first 2 circuits were a bit more complicated, but after that I started to get to used to it… When turning on base, lights of some villages could be seen which was really a nice feeling to get again some visual references…
Final Rwy 03L (night VFR)
There was a wind from the north between 20-25 knots, which gave us 11 knots crosswind component during the approach and the landing on the RWY 03L. It complicates the practicing of the landings in the night a little bit. Or better said quite complicated… I was hoping to have winds calm as it should be in the night, but it was not the case this time :-). There was also a turbulence bellow 300 feet on final so it was tough work to keep the plane leveled. Crosschecking the instruments, ILS, speed, horizon getting safe on the ground. Hovewer the landings were not so great as I would have expected. Still have 3,5 hours to fly, and I already look forward to it! Finaly I made 12 landings (without counting the bounced ones, lol), and made these with the plane this beautiful drawings on the screen of my ipad: