Night is one of the most delightful times to fly but carries new hazards and risks to pilots. In fact, the rules for night flying are more stringent in many countries than they are in the U.S., apparently in recognition of an increased level of risk. In Mexico, all night flights must be conducted IFR. Several African countries forbid ANY general aviation flights at night. (Airlines aren’t so constrained.) Of course, just as with flying over water, the airplane doesn’t know it’s dark, so the problems of night flying are more related to pilots than airplanes.
Here’s a short list of considerations for flying at night:
Smart aviators may plan a slightly different route at night, one that takes advantage of available airports en route.
Many pilots plan for a higher cruising altitude at night, simply because suitable emergency landing sites may be fewer and farther between.
Pilots should be vigilant about supplemental oxygen at altitudes of 5,000 feet or higher when flying at night. Pilots should plan ahead and make sure supplemental oxygen is on board if they anticipate night flight at or above that level. If pilots find themselves turning up the brightness and contrast on their instrument lights or handheld devices “they may be getting some hypoxic symptoms.”
You’ll need a flashlight or two for the preflight and should ideally plan to preflight when there are still some minutes of dusk left.
Altimeter settings become more critical when the ground may be invisible, and you should take every opportunity to update yours, factoring in any necessary corrections.
Here are some of our favorite night flying accessories:
Boost 1L Oxygen Can $13.99, MyPilotStore.com
2. Flight Outfitters Red/White LED Headlamp $29.95 MyPilotStore.com
Dual switches allow you to turn on just the white light, or just the red light. This means you don't have to scroll through different lights and ruin your night vision. Each color of light has a high and low setting to maximize battery life.