Pilot's tip of the week

“Black Out” Landings


Subscriber question:

"Not a question so much as a training suggestion. My instructor taught me to land at night without landing light (runway lights on, airplane landing light off) to help in case of light failures at night. This training has certainly come in handy over the years!" - John T.


“You make a great point. Black out landings – that is, landing without aircraft landing lights – should be a part of every pilot’s night training. Not only should it be part of our initial training but you also need to practice no-landing-light landings during your currency flying. If you have not done it since initial training you’re not going to be very comfortable when that landing light burns out on short final.

Black out landingDetermining when to flare is the problem when you have no landing light. The first thing you need to do is make sure you have a stabilized approach set up prior to the flare. If you are not stabilized, go around and set it up again.

Now, when to flare? According to the airplane flying handbook, the flare should be started when the runway lights at the far end of the runway first appear to be rising higher than the nose of the airplane. Put the airplane is a slight nose up attitude and feel for the runway using smooth power and pitch changes to allow the airplane to settle smoothly to the runway. Easier said than done.

So the secret to blackout landings is a stable approach, gentle flare, smooth coordination between pitch and power, and practice.”

Next week’s tip: Crossing the US/Canada border

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