Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Florida Night Flight

What a crummy photo, huh? You'll have to imagine the beautiful lights stretching to the horizon (or at least to the beach... or the "Abyss" as my instructor calls the unpopulated hole to the NE...lol).

I hope to take my comm ride this fall and went through my logbook seeing what I had for the required time. One place I came up short was night. Somehow I managed 1000 hrs in Alaska over 25 years (don't do the math, it's pathetic...) with less than 15 hours in the dark. In my defense, for the first 19 years I had airplanes with no electric system. And, in Alaska, when it's dark... it's generally COLD!

So, since I won't have any spare time in AK until around May, when it will not be dark, I thought I'd get the night stuff out of the way here.

I needed a night dual X-country and, while I'm pretty sure I have the required 5 solo night hours (but will have to look back a couple logbooks to see if I can PROVE it...), I'm also pretty sure I didn't document the required solo night landings.

So, my flight instructor du jour, Ed "Mr. Ed" and I flew a very nice 172S from Sarasota to Ocala (108 nm awy) to cover the 2 hour, 100 nm distant night dual requirement. The original plan was to make a few T&Gs somewhere but the 30 mph headwind on the way back turned it into a 2.9 hour ride. He was a good guy to fly with and good company, the plane had a KLN-94 GPS to play with (I forgot to mess around with the auto pilot, darn) and it was clear, calm, warm and beautiful so an awesome night.

There is a lot of airspace around here - Ed said they don't file flightplans because you're usually under some control and I believe it... We were talking to someone or another the whole time. We flew through Tampa and I was worried enough about Class B that I called Tampa approach on the phone before I left and asked them what to do. They were completely cool, both on the phone and in the air, so it was no problem. They had to be prompted to say "cleared into the B" or whatever it was though, which was a good lesson for me... even though you're already talking to them, they have to say the words or you're flying into B without clearance.

The FBO at Ocala was crazy to an Alaskan. Lots of private jets and they fill your plane while you surf weather or watch big screen TV inside... or, like we did, talk to a couple European guys that were just touring the SE in a rented 172 which sounded like a lot of fun. No DC-3s, Beech-18s or DC-6s though :-)

Then tonight I rode with Ed again to convince him I really could get the 'autoland gear' 172 on the ground safely... OK, actually I asked him to ride with me so I could be sure I knew how to taxi and manage the 'big airport' environment. There were a lot of jets coming and going and I had to taxi across their runway and then use the cross runway so I was a little intimidated. Anyway, I made couple that didn't tear the gear off, so he jumped out and I did 10 more to fulfill the "night-VFR conditions ... 10 takeoffs and 10 landings (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower" requirement.

I also don't think I have the "solo" day VFR cross country. I've never flown the required distance completely alone... I have to look up the regs and see if having a 12 YO along counts as "solo"... ? Rats... FAR 61.51 (d) Logging of solo flight time. ..... a pilot may log as solo flight time only that flight time when the pilot is the sole occupant of the aircraft.

OK, I have to find somewhere 250 nm away to visit.... ALONE. Looks like Palmer to King Salmon will do it. (What a stupid rule). :-)

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