I got out the other evening to practice night landings. The regs say you need to make three night takeoffs and landings at least every 90 days to carry passengers at night, but that’s hardly enough. Every time I go out to do night landings I initially think to myself, “do I really need to do these?” and am immediately and decisively humbled the moment I take flight. I phoned weather en route to the airport.
“Surface winds SW at 8 knots,” the man said. “Winds aloft, 42 knots from the SW.” What? Forty-two knots at 1500 feet above ground? Is this guy joking? It seems perfectly calm down here. I phoned the tower to ask of turbulence or wind shear reports.
“None that I’ve heard,” chuckled the controller as if I’d dialed a wrong number. “It’s beautiful out here.” He announced tower closing for the night in the same breath as radioing my first takeoff clearance — wish he’d have stuck around for a pilot report.
Whooaaa! I thought as my wheels left the ground… The Flying Carpet yawed and bucked like a wild horse as I struggled for altitude, then rocketed through downwind with monster winds at my tail. Night landings are always challenging at Flagstaff, between the black sky on moonless nights like this one, the dearth of ground lights except for those of the city to the north, and anemic airplane performance here at the airport’s 7,000 foot elevation above sea level. Was it tough? Yep. Was it worth it? You bet! ©2009 Gregory N. Brown