View Full Version : Surviving GPS,Power and compass failure at night
02-23-2011, 02:24 PM
So I'm flying from Pompano to Everglade City and you experience a comlete infomation shutdown. Alaska, Montana, Kansas anywhere for that matter. It's dark,real dark. What to do you do. This was a conversation the hangar flyers had not to long ago. I was coming back from Pompano last night and the basic night time flight skills were thought about and implemented, had nothing else to do for the next 90 minutes. Being prepared. As I'm climbing in the plane I remembered I didn't have my flash light -So I put my cell phone in the back pocket of the front seat to cover that problem. Second, I thought what if I loose electric power and it takes the 396 or what ever with it, I use a Nuvi 200 when I'm driving around cities and it would serve well as basic GPS backup in the unlikely event. So I put that with in reach. Third and most important FUEL. I almost took off with half tanks which almost for sure would require a fuel stop. Got fuel. I haven't flown much at night time since last summer in Montana. The Everglades are dark, real dark and add a moonless night, wow. This flight turned out to be a good time to sharpen up the night time flying skills. My airplane has a Dynon EFIS, panel mounted GPS, AT150 trans, and 197 com. and a good instrument flood above my head. To lower the stress level of night flying I found that reducing the cockpit light level made a huge difference.This sounds simple and everybody knows this -Right. I routinely fly with a 2 in. role of masking tape hung on the front control stick so I put it to good use. It took 4 layers of tape to dim the red LED instrument light until is was just a dull glow. I'll be installing a dimmer this week. I dimmed the EFIS down as low as it would go, lowered the 396 down to the point that the next position was off, closed the transponder beacon hit light until it was 98%closed. Covered the LED oil temp with 4 layers of tape. Now I could see the stars. The cock pit became a totally functional night environment but at the same I became more functional. I guess I knew all these things but had become lost in the 21st century high tech panel I have created. Don’t get me wrong, it truly is an awesome panel, but for night flying it needs to be about as dark as I can make it.
02-23-2011, 03:22 PM
Your GPS has its internal battery to fall back on. Should last for hours on a full charge. And the Dynon should have a backup as well, doesn't it. An electrical failure at night would preempt any further travel on my part and probably dictate a landing at nearest to troubleshoot. Then decide whether to continue on or wait until morning and/or repairs. I agree that turning down all the lights as low as feasible makes everything much more pleasant, both inside and out.
As someone who makes a living flying a 'partial panel' airplane every night, I would put my 2 cents like this:
Proficiency, If you want to fly at night, get proficient, and stay there... Until you are, cities are your friend. Large expanses of wilderness and range land hide bad things like towers, and mountains, and can go IMC in a heartbeat.
Flashlights, I keep 3. And I keep them in very separate, but reachable locations. At least one of those should be firmly planted enough that it doesn't leave it's location in the worst case scenarios...
Fuel, If you are going moonless and city less, you want enough fuel to get not just to an airport, but enough to get to an airport that is lit. Pilot controlled lighting isn't going to help if the radios go TU. Having landed an airplane at a tiny unlit ag strip on a moonless night after a total electrical system failure, I can assure you it is one place I'd just as soon never visit again. To clarify, your back up gps battery may work wonderful, but when the master / buss fries your landing lights are going to be asleep at the wheel.
Wx, If it is moonless, you are already close to IMC. Know the Wx, because on a moonless night you can fly right into a cloud before you ever knew it was there...
I love flying at night, but I don't kid myself about the associated challenges that go with being there...
Take care, Rob
Tip: If you have a child in drama class, ask them to bring home a few colored filters from the lighting. I think they call them gels? They work well to tape over GPS etc screens, and even in between a flashlight lens.
Used to fly game surveys in a different region. To pick up the Biologist, I would leave about an hour before civil twilight so I could land, pick him up and fly to the destination about sunrise. No attitude instruments,no GPS, No VOR, No ADF, couldnt trust the compass. Piece of cake on starlit nights. just follow the stars. Moonlit nights were like flying in the daytime. On overcast nights, it was a real challenge. If the clouds were high enough, one could see a farmhouse light every twenty miles or so. If the weather was real crappy, I had to figure a route that I could always keep a light of some type in sight. No sign of orientation, and things could go sour real fast.
02-23-2011, 07:24 PM
Which Dynon EFIS? Did you consider it dark enough? I flew a fair bit with a Garmin G1000 and found that I couldn't get it dark enough to stop messing with my situational awareness and enjoyment of the night flight - even though it was so dark that I couldn't read it. I'm considering Dynon for the Bearhawk and visited with them at Oshkosh. The Skyview has different lighting than the others - haven't had a chance to see either in a night environment.
02-23-2011, 08:31 PM
I totally agree about the G1000. One of the aircraft I fly has the G1000 and the other has an Avidyne EX5000. Both systems DESTROY night vision. I think the problem is the color and the utilization of the LCD screen. Too much blue light on the PFDs. I never noticed this problem before when flying tube displays. I wish someone would invent a PFD with a night mode option that uses green data on a black field like the military. Seems like this would be a pretty easy thing to program. Are you listening Garmin, Avidyne, Dynon?
02-23-2011, 08:51 PM
The DG10A on the Dynon. Works well and when darkened is very readable. I like it at night.
I had actually thought about what would be the most conservative option if the weather or equipment failed. Following a known highway to the coast than catch the interstate north. The evening didn't merit the more conservative decision. The discussion is to remind and perhaps revisit the potential danger of night flying over unlighted landscapes. Couple obstacles such as hills or even mountains and you have a moderate work load. Cedar Key is a popular destiniation for the recreation and traveling pilot but can be extremely dangerous at night because runway 23 is out over the water. The departure to the north east is always a better choice even with a tail wind. There has been at least 3 different accidents killing 8 people at this location all with night departures. One in particular was the result of sea fog looming 500 yards off shore,couldn't see it. Commercial pilot with an IFR rating. Didn't help that night.
02-24-2011, 07:23 AM
I'm by no means an expert and am very hesitant to comment about flying technique, especially mine but I really like flying at night and do so regularly.
Around town and out in the boonies (you still can't get away from ground light much around here) with cross country flights on good nights. I don't like night emergency procedures but force myself to do them regularly in full dark and at sunset.
I like flying later better as around here the air is much cleaner later or early in the am...Departing Dallas at sunset sucks! There is so much haze you never get a sunset...yuck
Flashlights = 3 as above; One bite sized LED with green filter (works great in transitional light) Velcro to the panel; One high dollar HID deals (requires ridiculously expensive batteries but in WHITE I think you could hold it out the window as a back up landing light!) that is switchable red/white and has a momentary push button (test these kind closed in your hand to make sure which light comes on) with a lanyard that I loop around my shoulder harness, and lately a new cheap LED combination from Home Depot that has a white front bulb and a really cool red wand (kind of like a mini version of ramp ape's light) which I picked up for constant whole panel illumination but it is also wonderful when your passenger didn't finish their book before the sun went down.
I darken EVERYTHING progressively as it gets darker and my vision gets better. My 496 is mounted heads up style and is too bright even in night mode at the lowest light setting. For this I cut down one of those slap-on removable windshield tint thingy’s that Sporty's sells and it is the ticket. I have another full sized one that once the sun is gone works great for that last step my eyes need when draped over the radio/gps transponder rack down below the panel. Then I put gloves over the SPOT locator and Light Speed headset controller to hide those annoying blinking LED indicators. Several years ago I changed the Grimes (think red birthday candle) panel light for a larger red/white switchable one from Spruce that is dimable... it works great!
Everything critical that uses panel power needs its own internal battery back-up with charge indicators. For radio I carry (day or night) a hand held in a handy little holster with a headset adapter and have used it in the day when my radio went bye-bye. Need to drain and recharge these pretty regularly, every oil change is my reminder.
I learned sailing that the darker you make and keep it inside the better you see outside!
Biggest pucker moment was when I flew threw a smoke plume from a very distant grass fire.
Put some easy tunes on or find someone to yack with (get flight following if available or talk to the big boys on fingers... Fed Ex is always going somewhere) on the radio to keep your brain from creating problems then relax work your scan and wait for the cabin steward to come by... Oh and remember in the winter it's colder at night than my cub's heater will correct for :(
02-24-2011, 07:32 AM
Hmmmm,,, I HATE night flying...:evil:
02-24-2011, 07:55 AM
Here's your first sentence:
"So I'm flying from Pompano to Everglade City and you experience a comlete infomation shutdown."
It seems to me that you'll be able to continue the flight without difficulty. I, however, am in deep doggie-doo! :-)
I sort of like night flying, even with just my eyeballs, compass and primitive instruments. If I flew over remote, uninhabited areas, my attitude would change, I think. Around here, we have farms, roads, towns and cities to use as nav points.
02-24-2011, 02:41 PM
Hmmmm,,, I HATE night flying...:evil:
I can see whats in your future for the next bi-annual...!!
It will be a dark and stormy night....
the 496 will have gone Tango Uniform...
Camara and shotgun shells all left home...
the iphone will have been left in the pickup...
But you will proudly pull out the "Cap LIght" ... putting it on the bill of your hat, and Save the day..!!
All while landing in the "pasture" under a partial moon.....http://www.supercub.org/forum/images/icons/icon8.png!!
02-24-2011, 03:50 PM
Chugging along at a blazzing 115 MPH northeast out of Phoenix AZ. at !:30 am on a clear beautiful night with my sister in the other seat, I suddenly was startled
by a set of lights that passed right over the top of me at maybe a hundred feet ! I pushed the mike button and said, " who just passed over me like I was selling pencils on the street coner ? " A voice responded , I did ! I said , " You got my attention ! " " Where you headed ?? " HE said Showlow , how about you ?" I said
Showlow. He asked what I was Flying ! I said a 1946 Stinson. There was a short pause and he responded , Man , You are nuts flying the mountains in a single engine
at night !!! I commented, " You have got to have faith in your engine !" I did tell him that I only do ocasionly !
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