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The night flight was awesome!

Made my flight plans and reached the airport at 7.30 pm. Tom was already there. Plan was to do 10 stop and gos and a total of 3 hour in-flight time to meet the license requirements.

I filed the flight plan, did the pre-flight checks with a red flash light. That takes a few minutes to get used to. Because Pooja was with us, Tom and me had to do 3 touch and Gos for him to be night-current before she could hop in the airplane. That was an interesting experience. Wind was pretty strong, kind of a crosswind blowing at 14kn. I did the runup and taxied short of runway 30. Tom took over from there, did 3 touch and Gos and then I took the controls back to taxi back to parking.

Landing at night
Takeoffs in the night are not much different that daytime but landings need some careful handling and skill. That is because when you descend down to the runway in pitch dark with only the runway side lights available as reference, it is hard to judge when the tires will touch the ground. All your senses that tell you during the day how high you are go for a toss. You have to look straight down the runway for the red marker lights (last 1000ft of the runway) and use the angle of those lights to judge the height. It is a weird sensation. When Tom was doing his touch and Gos, I was thinking why is he flaring this high, but then when I did mine, I realized what was going on. He was actually doing much better than my first few landings.

The missing flight plan
So after picking up Pooja, we took off at about 9pm. Headed south towards Aurora to catch I5 South down to salem. Almost immediately, I was lost. All my ground reference points were not visible so I could not tell where we were. I looked at my flight log, picked the heading we were supposed to fly and kept climbing at that altitude. During all this, I called McMinnville FSS to open my flight plan. The operator could not find my flight plan!! and asked if we wanted to file a fresh one. Grrr! thats just what I needed to mess up my orientation. This was the third time this had happened. the FSS system just sucks after Lockheed Martin took over operations. Tom took over com to help me file the plan and asked me to fly the plane. Of course, I was lost, tried looking at the map and found that nothing matched with what I was looking for. Tom helped me find various cities and I5 south butting out of Aurora.

The View
Night flying is very different. It is beautiful. We were lucky to catch such a good night yesterday. Visibility was unlimited. We could see for tons of miles, jets lining up for PDX international, low flying small airplanes, etc. We leveled off at 5500ft and just followed I5 south from there. It was just beautiful. Cars with their headlights looked like toys, it was as if I was sitting in a commercial jet looking down at all the cities passing by just that we were moving much slower. It was very easy to spot other airplanes too.

Click-click-click runway lights on!
This was one of the coolest things we did. So you are flying in the night. To save power, non-towered airports switch off their runway lights automagically. To switch them on, you just switch to the common traffic frequency and click your com mic 3, 5 or 7 times depending on the intensity you want for the lights. This was so cool. we were approaching Corvallis and Tom went click-click-click and Corvallis airport lights came on out from the dark. It was so awesome. I played with the lights a bit to get used to it. It was fun.

The stop and go (4th landing of the night) at Corvallis was my first landing at night. I came in at the usual airspeed, a bit higher on the glide path and BOUNCED! That was a wake up call. That gave me a shot in the visual references and made me realize what night landing was all about. We stopped and took off. Tom looked at the engine time and asked me to extend our return flight plan by 30 mins. Called FSS and did that.

Then came the surprise.

Stop and Go at Portland International
On the way back, I casually mentioned that I really wish to do touch and gos at PDX international one day. Tom said hmmm.

A few minutes later while talking to PDX tower, he added this to the radio call “PDX approach, request a touch and go if able“. PDX replied with “Roger 1087C, proceed to downtown portland, left downwind runway 28 Left“. At that moment, my jaw dropped which transitioned to what Tom calls the “grinning idiot smile“.

A few minutes later PDX controller asked us to descend to 2000 ft. I tried hard but even within 10 miles of the airport, I could not spot the runway. I was too flabbergasted with the surprise. We flew in the pattern, got into left downwind runway 28 Left, landed, stopped and took off. While taking off, Tom took over the controls and asked me to look to our right. We were right next to all the big jets, the gates, the moving baggage, the fuel tanks and of course we were among the big jets landing on the same runway. I heard an Alaska airlines 737 cleared to land right behind us.

That was landing number 5.

The last 5 landings at HIO
We headed back to Hillsboro. HIO tower goes out of operation after 10 pm so we followed the non-towered airport procedure to land. I could not spot the airport, again. We did the click-click-click thing to switch on the main runway lights. My first landing was bumpy. Second one was a bit better. Then Tom switched off the landing light and said “you just lost your landing light. Land“. I bounced again! Then he switched the light back on and I did 2 more stop and gos. The last landing was the best. I controlled the descend up to the point the tires touched the runway. Used throttle to control the descend and it kinda worked.

Pooja was tired with the 3 hr flight and slept off during the last 5 landings at HIO. Tom was surprised how could someone sleep during landings in a small airplane. She did. 🙂

Our flight ended up being – HIO – CVO – PDX – HIO. A solo long cross country, lots os studying, final checkride and I should have my license!

Night flying is fun! Tom made sure it was even more enjoyable. He is a very nice person and an awesome flight instructor. And this goes to him, he knows what this is –

10 REM Tom you are the best
20 print thank you thank you
30 goto 10

I owe you a big one.