View Full Version : Taildragger at night

PA-12 Super Cruiser
10-10-2003, 08:53 AM
I am curious how many people out there fly their cubs at night on a regular basis? I was told when getting checked out in my pa-12 that night landings were dangerous on a grass field because of the lack of reflectance. Are their any thoughts or experiences on this subject.


10-10-2003, 09:34 AM
I am as comfortable flying a Cub at night as I am any other single (don't like it). It depends on your level of experience, the familiarity of the area and landing site. You also have to consider the possibility of losing ground reference and the lack of decent instruments in most Cubs. I guess I am just trying to say..It depends. Joe

Clay Hammond
10-10-2003, 09:40 AM
We have to be very careful about wildlife on the runway (I'm sure everyone else does too), specifically whitetail deer in our area. If you're going to do it, and I don't advocate it, be sure to have lots of light on the a/c and make a couple of passes before landing. Both to shoo off the critters, as well as to get a feel for the surroundings in a low or zero ambient light situation.

10-10-2003, 09:45 AM
I love night flying, but am cautions about it for all the above stated reasons. Here in the flatlands, you stand a pretty good chance of landing somewhere even a night that won't kill you.

Since I keep the plane at a Class D airport, we have less problem with wildlife but during the rutting season and the hunting season, they will jump the 8' fence and run around on the airport chasing citation jets.

I don't even have 100 hours of night, which I need to get my ATP rating, so I will be doing more night flying. It is the only thing I have yet to complete (other than taking the written which I understand is quite difficult).


10-10-2003, 10:38 AM
Night flying was required and routine for me years ago ( 2 engines and instruments) but one of the worst scares I have had in in an airplane was at night in a supercub. I pushed the weather getting home and lost ground reference........ with no gauges it's a heart stopper let me tell you. I got lucky in a 180 and I learned a lesson but , just in case, I installed a turn coordinator in my present cub.

Jeff.........I've found that night ops in a cub are no problem on grass as long as you have some way to gauge your altitude and depth perception.

10-10-2003, 10:41 AM
I have also found that the dual landing lights really work great for lighting up a poorly lit grass area. And if you flash them it scares the deer.

I have an old venturi on the side of 197T and I always tell people it is a deer whistle when they ask.


10-10-2003, 11:41 AM
Lake Hood has waterlane marker lights on the east/west canal. If you don't like grass, try landing on floats at night. The lights don't illuminate much, they just define the canal edges. Dark approach over the lake, darkness beyond. Definitely some pucker factor involved.

10-10-2003, 02:15 PM
I adore flying at night. But I don't do it unless I can see Anchorage from wherever I am. And I don't do it often because I won't go out except on cloudless nights. I don't have floats, but man is it great fun to come down the waterlane at Lake Hood on skis in the winter. I've now got a landing light and instrument lights and am looking forward to trying those out as well.

10-10-2003, 11:39 PM
Well, I wouldn't exactly say that you shouldn't land your PA-12 at night on a grass strip. Landing at night on a grass strip, is really no different than making a glassy water landing in a PA-12 on floats. If you have the proper approach set up, you simply (as in the case of flying the J-3 solo), have to learn to utilize the visual references around you to judge your height. Now, depending on where your grass strip happens to be located may be another consideration. Considering I've flown out of a 2400 foot grass strip for the last 14 years, one must also give other thought to things such as deer, or animals which are much harder to see when landing into a black hole as opposed to a lighted concrete runway at a larger airport. The PA-12 is a relatively slow airplane, and once you get the hang of using the other references around you in your peripheral vision instead of looking straight ahead at the pavement, it becomes quite easy. The trick is to land the 180 (approach speed 65 kts) on that same 2400 foot grass strip at night. Then lets talk about pucker!

10-11-2003, 09:06 AM
I am curious how many people out there fly their cubs at night on a regular basis? I was told when getting checked out in my pa-12 that night landings were dangerous on a grass field because of the lack of reflectance. Are their any thoughts or experiences on this subject.


I'm curious to know if you are talking about a grass runway with or without runway lights? If it has runway lights, I don't understand the problem. You should have been taught how to make landings without using your landing light anyway. Just use the runway lights for your visual reference. I always made my students learn how to do it without the landing light before they could do it with the Landing lights. Landing lights can and will burn out. Plus some aircraft don't have them.

10-11-2003, 10:31 AM
I know my 49 yr old eyes are a factor. And when I'm coming back late the eye mucles are tired. I like the idea of more light (dual lights that Steve mentioned). I've never seen an SC with two sets of landing lights, does anyone run them? I did see the picture of the high dollar cub with all the lights on the gear. I look at the combines out there at night and they've got the field lit up like a driving range.

SuperCub MD
10-11-2003, 10:44 AM
When landing on a lighted remote strip, over obsticals using the ground lights for reference, watch the lights on the ground. If the lights disappear, you are to low, and the obstical is now between you and the lights. I use this method landing on a grass strip at night with large trees on the end. Doesn't have to actually be official runway lights, any light than gives you a reference of where the ground is will do. With landing lights, give the rudder a good kick back and forth on short final to shine the light across the whole area to check for critters.

I used to practice landing with no landing light, or instrument lights. It's a whole different ball game when you can't see the airspeed or tach. But I had to land once with complete electric failure at night when I forgot my flashlight. Now I always carry two flashlights, and make sure they both work before takeoff.

All scary stuff aside, flying at night with clear skys under a full moon with snow on the ground is almost magical.

10-11-2003, 10:48 AM
Wilbur, Red Baron has them on his cub. You might ask him how he likes them. Univair sells the complete light kit, but it's very spendy...800$ ? I think a good deal would be to make the 2 inner lights landing and the 2 outers pulselights!

10-17-2003, 10:50 PM

10-17-2003, 11:50 PM
As long as the cub has the minimum equipment for night,(ref. FAR's for min. equip.) there is no problem flying/ landing at night. You need to have 3ea. night takeoffs and landings within the last 90 days to be current for pax's. Don't push the weather at night. BAD IDEA! The technique for night landings call for holding a landing attitude/ controlling the altitude w/power(glassy water) You don't want to do the big flare at night. You can put reflector tape up along the runway center or borders for visual ref. you need to be able to ref. your rollout direction(to stay straight). The aforementioned technique of watching the lights to maintain clearance of the terrain is a bad idea. Line of sight is not the same as descent path. You need to know the safe altitude to maintain all the way through the visual pattern. (maintain situational awareness)

10-18-2003, 12:25 AM

SuperCub MD
10-18-2003, 10:30 AM
Oops. "Method" was a bad choice of words. The idea is to always keep the lights in sight. But watch them close.

Flagolds story reminds me of the first time I witness this phenomenon. My first though was "Damn, bunch of lights burned out on the threashold." If you've ever seen it, it creates this illusion perfectly. Luckily, I was still awake just enough to figure it out before I stuffed it in the trees.

10-18-2003, 10:31 PM
Lots of good advise . . . and experiences. If you fly at night in shorter strips . . . . you are going to have experiences. And that is how we all learn to fly another day. Our farm strip for 20+ yrs. was 1,100' with a woods a ways off the east end . .. and high tension lines and a lower set of elec. & phone lines a ways off the west end. The width was a little under 50'. For those years the PA-18 was a 90 w/out landing lights or flaps. Our father having learned in the 40's . . . taught us a few tricks that so far have kept us in one piece. Standard proceedure was two smudge pots on each end & one in the middle (go around point). It was interesting when one or several went out before you got back. Without smudge pots we also used to land over a car parked on the end of the strip. (I don't reccomend this) But if you do . . make sure the guy in the car N E V E R sets a foot on the brake. It does wonders to your dept preception (what little you have). If all goes well . . . the car is to follow you down the strip so you can try & stay straight. If the driver has not done this before they have the tendency to sit & "burn grass" as they are still recovering from a "near miss". . .and you then go bounding down the strip (in the dark) hoping you don't go into the pond or the ditch. Even without the brakes lights on . . . the tail lights are like a magnet . . . and you want to land on them. It is always a "pucker" trying to miss the car . .yet not be too high. Ya . . your right . . we were young and stupid.

A helpfull trick . . that will sound "STUPID" until you try it . . or need it. This only works if it is not a BLACK . .BLACK night. To make sure you are over your obsticle on the approvach end . . have your passenger stick their head out the window. They actually can tell the differnce between the "blackness" of the trees and the "open" field after. As kids . .that was our "job". When the move was made to the front seat . .I made sure someone was in that had wits about them. It must be refraction or something with the plexiglass.

Without landing lights Dad tought us to feel for the ground just like on skis and virgin show. In the flare start pulling slow . . and at the same time start adding power & keep pulling & adding power. In most cases the tailwheel touches first . . and now cut it. When we did put landing lights in (trying to get smarter before someone got hurt) we found them of little use on the short strip. At 55-60 the attitude was such that we could see nothing ahead of us until the flare. At 65 or 70 we could see the trees and the strip . . . but usually floated too far down the strip. A wheel landing would have helped . . but I always "chicken out" at the last minute trying to find the ground. For a few years there was corn planted on each side of the runway. That spiced things up. I found night flying on skis with some "moon" & better yet full moon . . to be great! You don't get lost as quick . .and we now can see the trees off the end of the strip as well as anything on the strip. You also feel better about the chance of surving a "putdown" if things get quiet out front.

As our deer population has grown . . we now seldom use the stip after dark. I have had too many close calls. The closest was once when something caught my left eye just as the wheels touched. I looked over & it was a doe runing with me . . under the strut . .not far away as she was outlined by the landing light. I was sure she had the prop but all came out unscathed.

Sorry for the rambling. Just do some flying with someone that has experience in your type of plane . . and the type of flying your are going to do.