Night Cross-Country Flights and First Night Solo

The weather was finally good enough to get back in the air! For the first time in over 5 months, I started flying again. I’m working on finishing off five flights in the Cirrus SR-20 that need to be completed before flying the Piper PA-44 Seminole. The first two lessons were dual flights with an instructor, and we basically just practiced landings and pattern work. It had been a while since I flew VFR traffic patterns, since all summer I had been learning approach procedures and generally doing straight-in landings. It was fun getting back to the basics though, and after two or three landings it all felt natural again.

It was also helpful for me to review cross-country planning and procedures for uncontrolled airports. Looking up airport information in the chart supplement helped know beforehand what type of lighting was available and which frequency to activate them on. (Since it’s not always the CTAF) When picking checkpoints at night, it is usually easiest to pick lighted towers, roads, or urbanized areas. With good visibility, it can even be easier than during the day to identify the points.

For the second dual flight I was able to take my dad flying backseat. It was marginal VFR all over lower Michigan with clouds around 2,500 AGL, but it seemed that the weather wasn’t getting any worse. We decided it was good enough to go, and we just tried our best to keep the flight short. Our flight went from Battle Creek to Flint, Flint to Lansing, and finally Lansing back to Battle Creek. While climbing out from Lansing we flew right over downtown and were able to spot the capitol building. Finally, just yesterday evening, I did my first night solo. It was one of my most enjoyable flights ever! It only lasted about 45 minutes, but I was able to fly over to KAZO and do 3 trips in the pattern. Along the way I encountered winds aloft of over 50kts at just 3000ft.

Although initially I was not comfortable flying at night, these lessons helped me get over that and increase my confidence. Now it’s actually become very enjoyable, and I look forward to more night flights in the future.

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