Night Flight to Chico and Red Bluff

So, one of the things I have to do, as a step of getting my private pilot’s license, is a 100 mile night flight. That’s a minimum, not a maximum. This is with my instructor, not solo (apparently, there are no solo night requirements for the license; any solo night work I do will be after I get my licenes).

Destination: Chico. Bonus destination: Red Bluff. (It happened to be fairly close..). Pilotage was not going to get us far, as you can not see the terrain at night. You can see the twinkles of cities; and depending on the highway, you might see that.

For the night flight, I had permission to depend on radio aids; that is, tuning to VOR radio stations to determine my position relative to those stations, and using them as my way points. My route followed I5, which is a fairly busy freeway, even up north. This would help me keep track of where I am should my radios fail. (The route direct to chico would have had me travelling a big giant void).

Weather Saturday night was great. Cool on the ground; hot as heck above ground for the first 1500 or so feet. Then cool again at altitude. Clear skies and great visibility. (Cool is relative. It had been 108F that day..).

Lessons learned on this particular trip:

All in all the trip was fairly uneventful. Things were peaceful. With no moon out, there wasn’t much to look at other than the pattern of lights from I5 and the occasional city. I don’t think I’d do this again for pleasure - nothing to look at.

On the flip side, I didn’t have any orientation issues that can be associated from night flight. Due to lack of things to look at, night flight can be close to instrument flight. You have to trust your instruments a lot more and your visual reference a lot less.

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