Daily Pilot's Journal

Read the complete day-by-day flight log of an actual student pilot, from the first takeoff to the signing of his private pilot's license. Written promptly at the end of every flight, each entry is completely unedited - detailing the successes, failures, and mistakes we all encounter along this long road.
Day 27 - Ridiculous Amounts of Night Landings
Wednesday, 8/08/06 8:30pm - Clear skies, moderate winds. Took off from Farmingdale and immediately noticed a huge difference in visibility from the other night flying I had done! The sky was clear, and with a temperature of around 84 degrees all the haze was gone. The moon was full - it was this awesome yellow color and looked gigantic in the sky. A harvest moon, Stan called it. All of Long Island was lit up and I could see everything for miles... it was truly awesome and it immediately dispelled all aversions to nighttime flying that I'd sort of developed on Monday night.

Heading to Bridgeport the Long Island Sound was dark beneath us, and like the forests out east I could see how easy it would be to fly right into the water if not careful. Maintaining 2000 feet we came into Bridgeport, yet I could only tell the airport was there by the contour of the familiar landscape. I could faintly see the tower beacon but I couldn't see the runways. Got clearance to enter runway 29 on a left base, and since I knew exactly where runway 29 was I entered the pattern. There are no lead-in lights at Bridgeport, and the runway lights were faint. Stan helped me line up with the runway because I was having a hard time locating it, and once coming in I realized just how dark it was. Landing into the dark, even with the landing light, was challenging. You don't see the asphalt until later in your landing cycle so you have to make decisions at a later time, leaving you less room for correction. Add to this the fact that we had pretty strong crosswinds coming in from the left... runway 29 was definitely not the ideal runway to be landing on, but we were forced to choose it because runway 6/24 was closed for painting. What a bad time for this to happen.

My first landing was rough but acceptable. Took off and made right traffic, coming in downwind I couldn't see the runway lights at all. I only knew to turn base because of the waterline, and because of all my previous experience doing circuits on runway 29. Came in too far out and had to add power - my approach was too low - once again I didn't see the runway until very late and when I landed it showed. Another hard but acceptable landing and I was back in the sky again.

My third circuit was the same, with me holding runway heading a bit too long on my upwind and making slow turns that put me too far from the airport. My pattern needed to be tighter. On the third takeoff Stan showed me how to widen out my upwind and make tighter turns to downwind, turning my crosswind into a tight sweeping arc. Finally I looked over my right shoulder and saw the runway lights... I burned the image into my head and made a mental note of where they were in relation to all the other lights around Bridgeport. Tightened my base this time and suddenly my final approach was looking a lot better. Better approaches usually translate into better landings, and this was no exception. My fourth landing was my best yet... smooth and controlled. From there, I knew what to do.

Stan and I made another two or three landings and I began to get a good feel for the airport again. Everything felt the same as it did during the day, with the exception of Stan working the landing light. Stan called for a full stop and a taxi-back, which was nothing more than me landing and taking the final turnoff so that I could taxi back the full length of the runway. He did this to show me how differently taxiing was during the night, and how you could easily get lost on the taxiways.

We did a short-field takeoff and made another few landings, the last one with the landing light off to simulate a light failure. That landing was a little harsher than the others, but still acceptable.

After nine consecutive landings we'd effectively beat the crap out of runway 29. I called for a crosswind departure and was approved. Right afterward, a female pilot who had been lost earlier called Three Wing aviation for fuel and for some reason they were still open. Not realizing this, Stan opted to go back and do one more full stop so he could top the tanks off. At one point the tower was informing the newly-landed female pilot that she'd taxied clear off the taxiway. Oops.

Fully fueled, we took off using the tower frequency as a Unicom since the tower was now closed. Flying back to Long Island was beautiful and smooth. The winds had died down and the last few landings had been easier. Finding the Walt Whitman mall was a little tougher, but once Stan showed me what it looks like I'm pretty confident I can pick it out again. Final approach on runway 19, Stan showed me the "2.5 mile rule" which brought us in smoothly and effectively. I floated the landing a bit but recovered the float with some extra power, touching down gently and taxing back to the echo ramp. Putting the plane away, I was proud to note that in 11 landings, the tow-bar hadn't been knocked off its mount.

Flying hours today: 1.9       Total: 36.9

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