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As my hour building mission continues, I am venturing out a little more and taking in new sights, including flying at night!

On Wednesday, I had my first night flight which was an absolutely breathtaking experience. This initial lesson was a ‘night familiarization’ flight. With my instructor Adrian, we set off out East and I attempted to digest all that was running through my mind. After the initial rotation, the first part of the climb is flown solely with regard to the instrumentation panel. This means quickly looking between the artificial horizon, the air speed indicator and finally the altimeter. This is known as a pilot’s ‘scan’.

After the initial climb out to approximately 600 feet, you look out at the horizon which is forming from all the lights in the area. It’s easy to do this at Stapleford as you look out over London which is tremendously well lit. We soon settled into a relatively easy navigation exercise which was all about getting me used to what I could and could not see at night. One of the first things that Adrian said before we took off was that we fly ‘IFR’. Normally this means ‘Instrument Flight Rules’, but his fun acronym of it was ‘I Follow Roads’. This means that you use roads for navigation as they are so easy to spot and follow!

We flew back to the aerodrome to complete a couple of circuits and I found these especially difficult as it was initially hard to get used to not being able to see the ground below you. When on final approach, this gives you the impression of flying into a deep dark hole of nothingness just before the runway. Lesson over, I headed home on a massive high! Bring on my next night flying lesson!

Yesterday, I took the opportunity of a rare break in the weather to fly out to White Waltham airfield. As I’m in an hour building mindset, I planned a rather long route which took me East all the way to Dover before heading West to fly overhead Chichester aerodrome. After this, I turned north and tracked through a military zone before landing at White Waltham. The flight time was just over two hours each way which made it my longest flight yet!

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The flight went well and I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to get permission to fly through the military air traffic zone. There were a number of gliding sights in the area also which added to the spice as you have to be especially vigilant in these places. As the aerodrome is partially situated inside Heathrow’s airspace, all the flying is done at a pretty low level in quite a confined area. The aerodrome was particularly busy when I arrived so it was quite exciting fitting into their circuit pattern.

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If any one else flies there soon, I’d heartily recommend both asking for taxi / parking suggestions as well as trying out the delicious chicken and pest panini that they make! I did get a little bit lost whilst trying to find the visitors aircraft parking row. It’s easy to spot from the air, but from the ground, all you can see is aircraft upon aircraft stacked in numerous lines!

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The flight back was uneventful except for the nice and bumpy added turbulence which I didn’t experience on the way out. It was also a delight to fly and land just as the sun was getting low. My timing worked out well as I landed half an hour before sunset, just as I had planned. The biggest difficultly during the approach was simply seeing the runway as it was almost directly into the sun!

Mike