Thursday, December 30, 2010

Night Currency

The FAA has a bunch of currency requirements for all US pilots. 
The basics are as follows:
  • For VFR Private Pilots: 3 takeoffs/landings every 90 days
  • For Instrument rating: 6 instrument approaches (+ intercepting/tracking/holding) every 6 months

There are more detailed nuances... But, I won't bore you with the details.

Since I am a very active pilot, I usually don't even think about the currency requirements listed above.

However,"night currency" is a different story.  While I have plenty of daytime hours, I have rather little night experience.  To stay night legal/current to carry passengers, the FAA requires 3 takeoffs and full stop landings at night, which is defined as sunset + 1 hour within the prior 90 days.  I go out of my way to ensure that I stay current @ night. Candidly, it is the only currency requirement that I need to actively go out of my way to maintain.

Tonight was a beautiful, clear night with sunset being @ 5:43 PM.  This made for perfect timing for a night currency flight.

Here I am preparing for takeoff (all by myself  ~5:30 PM waiting for the "right" time to takeoff):
Notice the landing light and my flashlight R both working!!

While I was waiting for the "right" time to take off,  I went to check out the Met Life Blimp, which is probably in town for the Outback Bowl on Saturday.
With so many blimps coming to Tampa lately, I feel like a connoisseur.  This one was MUCH smaller than last week's DirecTV blimp and (even seemed to have half the support staff). One of these days, I am going to find a way to get a ride on one!

Finally, it was time for departure (6:43PM that is).  The plan was simple... First fly to Lakeland, which is the home of Sun N Fun, and a perfect place for routine training/practice.  They have a control tower, a giant 9000 FT runway and a variety of instrument approaches that would keep any instructor entertained.  Best of all, other than the 2 weeks around Sun N Fun, this a sleepy, little airport the rest of the year.  The tower controllers are usually bored and seem downright excited when there is traffic in the area.  While I didn't need to do any approaches tonight, I decided to shoot the GPS 27 anyway on the first landing.  You can never fly enough approaches.  I find that it hones your piloting skills to have the little triangles on the screen act as almost a scorecard.  First landing was decent ... You can see for yourself here:

After a full stop and taxi back, I planned to head VFR northbound ; Do the second landing @ Zephyr Hills, then the final landing back home @ Tampa Exec.)
Unfortunately, the camera was running low on battery after the first landing... So I wasn't able to capture the rest of the filight.  Overall, with my new Mac, I am learning how to edit video better... But obviously I have not learned how to keep the camera charged! ;-)

Cheers,
== T.J.==

6 comments:

  1. Despite running out of power on the camera, I thought the first flight video was neat. It must be quite different flying at night versus flying during the day.

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  2. Night is a very different experience! ... Especially the total darkness over lakes, farms, etc ... Next I need to "learn/practice" taking pix @ night.

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  3. Very cool - I almost never fly at night. Not that I don't love to, but you can't land at Stewart at night (their rules) without a CFI. I generally don't have the time to re-position the airplane beforehand and then take it back the next morning to get in night practice at another airport.

    Anyway, glad to see someone's out there flying regularly and getting in some night practice. The joys of owning your own airplane, eh? :)

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  4. Thanks Steve! (Hmmm ... Never heard of a night restriction like that...)

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  5. I'm glad somebody knocked that first landing out without a firm plant on the runway, great job TJ. I went out to do my 3 and 3 along with one GPS approach into KILG....we are night current!

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  6. Well the airport is un-lit...

    For PPL training, they use oil lanterns at night, but you're only allowed to land there with a CFI. I've done it 15-20 times now, but never solo - liability reasons on their end as far as I know.

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