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    « Flying the Lake Amphibian LA-4-200 Seaplane | Main | Glassy Water Landing in a Lake Amphibian LA-4-200 Seaplane »


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    "Simulator studies show that even high time pilots, when flying a straight-in approach with few lights below, will fly a curved path that takes them below the approach path leading to a crash short of the runway."

    That's an interesting tidbit. I end up flying at night a couple times a month and I almost always make a straight-in approach from five or six miles out...perhaps it's time to change that practice.


    On reading this article, my mind goes to John Junior's accident at night near Martha's Vineyard, who took with him his wife and her friend.
    This was an accident waiting to happen. A non-instrument rated pilot on a night flight ending up disoriented in probably some low clouds or poor visibility at destination.
    I have also advocated some formal instrument time or certificate with issuance of the basic PPL to avoid such losses where the attitude factor, "macho" is playing so forcefully since flying is so much in vogue in USA.
    Why mot do it properly?

    Syed Mohammad Husain

    After a scheduled flight from Dubai, UAE, to Dar-es Salaam, Tanzania, with a NDB let down at night, on final approach to the runway in the early eighties, I was cautioned by First Officer Asad Ahmad that I was sinking and had to add power just prior to crossing the coast dotted with palm trees. This was I believe a classic case of a black hole approach, there were just a few lights inland, the let down was over the Indian Ocean.


    I once flew into Santa Barbara (KSBA) in a Cessna 172 at night. Not being familiar with the airport, I asked approach for RW 7 or 25 parallel to the mountain range with a PAPI.

    However, Tower cleared me for base entry RW 15. For this, one has to fly parallel and close to the hills, then turn towards the airport and descend (with no visual glide slope indicators).

    I was too cautious flying along the hills, and ended up way too high. No choice but a go-around.

    Thus, as a low-time VFR pilot, I had to fly out towards the pitch black sea, with no visual references, perform a climbing turn to crosswind (in the dark), then fly downwind towards the mostly unlit mountain range.

    Not good! The 2nd approach worked, but there was more luck involved than I'd have liked.

    Lessons learned:
    I should have re-iterated my request for RW 7 or 25 (wind was not a factor). I don't know why KSBA puts small aircraft onto RW15 (maybe to keep 7/25 free for jets, or for noise abatement. But there was no other traffic, and it's surely louder if you crash into a house than if you overfly it!)

    I won't fly into unfamiliar airports at night anymore unless they have visual glide slope indications (or I have a lot more experience).

    Cheers & thanks for your work, Max!

    Max Trescott

    I agree--I'm sure the tower has no ideal how they compromise safety by not routinely assigning GA pilots to Rwy 7 and 25 at night. No question, climbing and turning over the black ocean can be very disorienting. Glad it all worked out for you!

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