Night landings

Hello, I am a private pilot with an instrument rating (I just passed my instrument checkride.). Right now I am working on getting commercially licensed. All of my flights are at night for this flight lab, and I have lost a lot of proficiency when it comes to night landings. Most of the time I either flare too early or too late. I am wondering if anyone has tips on how to make a good night landing. Thank you!

Kiara,

As you’ve probably heard, good approaches lead to good landings BUT there’s also the dreaded night runway illusions. Depending on the lighting there could be a number of reasons why you’re landing long or short.

Now most pilots have a tendency to focus on the rwy right in front of them which doesn’t help regardless of day or night but that does seem to make things worse at night. You really need to force yourself to look down towards the end of the rwy. That picture won’t vary as much as looking right over your nose. Give it a shot.

Adam

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Kiara,

I just had a night landing in the jet the other night after not having one in almost a month and I can say that the illusions are real. Did I flare too early, did I not transition my eyes down to the blackened horizon soon enough, it wasn’t the smoothest landing I’ve had in the Embraer, but what do I do… I debrief with someone more senior than me who’s sitting next to my left asking what advice they had.

For us we’re not sitting in the flightdeck with you, we can’t see what you’re doing to help you “perfect” that night landing. What I can recommend is maybe doing some research on YouTube or Google even for night landing articles. When you don’t do something so often you lose proficiency and this is why ATP (not a sales pitch, I promise) and the airlines train around consistency and proficiency.

Please let us know how things go and the improvements made, I’m curious to what helps you improve (it may help someone else in the future). Sight picture changes with flap settings as well, use a consistent flap setting that keeps you stable, on glide, and can provide you the same sight picture every time.

Brady

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Adam,
Thank you so much for your answer regarding my question here. I have been slowly getting more and more proficient and better at making night landings. I will really take into consideration all of your tips here. I promise I will try this and get back to you regarding how it went.

Brady,
Seriously, thank you so much. It is more so just getting back into the ‘mood’ of doing night landings. ATP seems like a great flight school, and I wonder what it would have been like to go there instead of where I am at currently. However, I will definitely let you know what happens and how I do. I have a flight at midnight tonight, so I will give you feedback here. Thank you so much!

Kiara,

I have to ask, why is your flight starting at midnight?

Chris

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I was about to ask this, once I had Wi-Fi/cell service.

Kiara,

Starting a flight at midnight may be one of your problems with landings or in-general any night performance. This seems like a risk associated with potential fatigue or another physiological factor. I’d be having a conversation with your instructor asking why are we starting at midnight. And not 30 mins past sunset when night time can be logged.

Brady

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So my schedule does vary. On occasion I have to take later flight blocks. I have been flying the 7pm block, but this time I have to fly a little later. I do get plenty of sleep prior to my flights as well as after them.

Yes, and I have thought about that. I really get lots and lots of sleep prior and after these flights so I am very awake and attentive during these flights. In general, I have been flying the 7pm block, but on occasion I have to take later flights just because of availability. Since I started this commercial flight lab I have noticed huge improvements with landings. I just need to refine the small points.

Kiara,

Midnight is no time for a student to learn. A night cross country is one thing, but scheduling a local flight at midnight is absurd. Clearly this school has aircraft or instructor availability issues. I know you say you are rested, but I highly doubt that you are at your peak performance at that time of the night.

Chris

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These flights are cross country flights that are used to build time and proficiency for commercial license. We’re doing touch and gos at several airports along the way. (:

Cross country or not, I strongly disagree with training at 3 am for where you are in your career.

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I definitely agree because it impacts training by a long shot and it becomes quite irritating to be honest. I will be discussing to work things out with my school because it is ridiculous. I appreciate the help and everything too. I will take all your advice to heart.

Kiara,

Sorry I’m late to the conversation. Night landings are a skill just like many others that requires consistent attention or your proficiency will lapse. Looking out at the end of the runway is key. It’s more about feeling than seeing at night.

The worst of the illusion comes from looking down at the pavement and trying to judge how high you are. Fly the approach like normal, once over the threshold continue down like you would during the day and look towards the end of the runway. Feel the energy of the aircraft and use the peripheral vision to judge timing of the flare.

As for the time of day, it’s shocking to think you’re doing training at that time of night. Of course, night time is difficult to get but “normal” is going out right at 30 mins past sunset and getting the required time and tasks in and calling it a night. You may be rested but what about your CFI? There is so much more risk being fatigued and flying at that time of night.

Hannah

Hannah,
Thank you so much for your suggestion here. I have been trying all of these tips, and I can say that my night landings have gotten so so so much better. The illusions are the tough one to tackle. I have had quite the experience with these recently. Thank you so much for your tips here, and they definitely did help!
Yes, and that is a very very fair point. I might be well rested, but what about my instructor? I will be having a chat with a few individuals to change up the schedule.

Adam, Brady, Chris, and Hannah,

Thank you all for your tips and tricks here! I wanted to get back on here and update you all regarding my progress with night landings. I have tried all of your guys’ advice, and I can very gratefully sat that it worked. I have seen so much improvement both during the day and during the night! I wanted to thank you all for your time and effort with helping me. I will keep you all updated with further information in the coming days.

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