Night Pre-Flight

John FRANKLIN • 30 October 2020
in community Rotorcraft

It is risky to assume that VFR flying at night is the same as flying during the day. Together with Mona Seeberger you will learn some of her tips as an instructor on having a safe flight in darkness.  Check out the video below and share the article with your friends.  


Preparing your helicopter

Doing a proper walk around in darkness is not so easy, especially if you want make sure that everything is where it should be and that there are no leaks or other problems. If at all possible perform the pre-flight check in daylight so that you can see as well as possible. Of course, that's not always an option so if you are forced to make the pre-flight when it's dark make sure to have the helicopter in a well lit area. Also, if you have to use a torch, make sure it is of good quality. Finally, always think about tool and loose article control on the flight line. Torches are one of the most famously left items within an aircraft or helicopter - follow whatever tool control procedures are in place and make sure that everything is accounted for before starting the engines.  


There are some additional considerations when planning a night flight - hopefully for obvious reasons that objects are much harder to see when it's dark. This seems obvious but accidents like this still happen so it's important to mention. Avoid mountanous terrain and other geographical features that might be hard to see in flight. By avoiding remote terrain you can reduce the risk of spatial disorientation or not being able to see the horizon easily. Also, think about emergency landing spots and how easy they are to identify when something bad is happening, in the dark! Planning your route along VORs, highways and cities can make things easier for you.

Aerodromes, take-off and landing sites

During pre-flight is a good time to check Notams to make that the services at any aerodrome, take-off or landing site is what you expect and need for the flight. Make sure that the aerodrome is open when expect to be there (with some extra time for contingencies). Check also on the facilites, Navaids and lights as well.  


The weather minima is very important at night. Always check for cloud base and other factors that might lead to fog or icing. Dealing with weather problems is even harder at night so get all the information you need and make an informed decision about where to fly and also whether to fly at all. If in doubt, don't be afraid to cancel the flight.  

Physical fitness and wellbeing 

When you fly at night, it takes 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust properly to the darkness. This makes it important not to look directly into strobe or navigation lights that could destroy your night vision. Do what you can to stay healthy and feel good. These are challenging times for all of us and COVID-19 places lots of new pressures on our day to day routines. Check out our Wellbeing Resource Hub for more practical information and also have a read through the Aviation Professional's Guide to Wellbeing

Night vision and concentration can easily be impaired by fatigue as well!

Stay safe. 

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