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It’s been a couple of months in the works, but I am now the proud holder of a night rating!

This is an additional rating to add to my current licence that now allows me to fly at night! It all began back in early December when I went for my first night familiarisation flight. I found that it was like jumping into a whole other world of piloting as the way you fly is very different!

Since then I have had approximately 6 night flights cancelled due to poor weather and so it was with great excitement that I found myself doing my navigation night flight on Sunday from Stapleford aerodrome, north east to Colchester, south to Southend airport overhead and then lastly heading west back to Stapleford.

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I was flying with an instructor called Sheila who was great fun. When she first rocked up for our flight, she brought some chocolate treats so I knew that we would get on well! We completed the exercise smoothly and then made our way back to Stapleford for a few circuits which were ok. I was initially struggling quite a lot with judging the point at which to flare as the visual perspective is very different when landing at night compared with landing during the day.

Yesterday, I made my way back over to Stapleford and knew that there was a very slim possibility that I would be able to complete the Rating then. To make the grade, you have to have completed 5 hours of night flying and in that have done 5 solo take offs and landings. I had done 2 & 1/2 by this point and so to do another 2 & 1/2 hours was going to be tough, yet the weather was looking superb so I wanted to give it my best shot!

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Sheila and I got up in the circuit again and we completed 7 circuits by which time I was feeling pretty safe and confident with the night landings. We also went through all the emergency drills such as landing with no landing lights on and landing with the precision approach path indicator lights (PAPI’s) switched off whereby you have to just utilise the visual cues from the runway edge lights.

My favourite and certainly most interesting emergency drill though was landing with basically everything off. My landing lights were off, the PAPI’s were off and all the internal lights were switched off in the cabin meaning that I could barely read the instruments and had to do a lot of educated guesswork in terms of where I thought the needle was indicating on certain instruments. I had a torch to double check my initial guesses and I was pleased to be almost spot on each time. This effectively simulated a complete electrical failure at night and what I would have to do to deal with it.

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By this point, Sheila was happy to send me solo and so after filling out rather a lot of paper work and also completing 3 further circuits with a senior instructor, I was sent away to do my 5 take offs and landings! After getting over those initial nerves, these went very well and I felt happy during my time in the circuit. Each circuit was a ‘full stop’ one, this means that each time I landed, I would taxi back to the start of the take off run, and then take off again rather than doing the typical ‘touch and go’s’ that we fly with an instructor. This is substantially safer for a relative rookie night flyer and I’m pleased that it is mandatory for the rating.

I ended up doing 6 solo circuits overall as I needed to use up a little more time to achieve my 5 hours and so once back on the ground I was pleased to have confirmation that I had logged 5hrs 5minutes total night time which effectively grants me a night rating!!

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All I have to do now is visit the CAA office at Gatwick, fill out more paperwork and then I will be on my way!