This picture embodies so much to me. This is one of my first solo night flights. I’m a private pilot with over 400 hours. My aviation journey began later in life, as my first priority has been raising my family for the last 20 years. My fascination with flying began long ago, as a young girl, flying aerobatics with my uncle. Although earning my pilot’s license was fairly recent, my knowledge and interest in airplanes has been life-long.
Because of my late start, I’ve crammed more flying in these past two years than many other pilots. I’ve got a lifetime of destinations to visit on my wish list and have proudly logged more than 52 airports to date. After a recent night flight, my appreciation for the dark sky was apparent. Pilots have flexibility to choose their routes and timing of trips. That’s one of the great things about general aviation: freedom. Experiencing the world from above is a great privilege we pilots have.
Day flying and night flying are different but each has its own unique benefits. What I love about flying during the day is the ability to see everything in miniature form. Day flights are alive with energy and adrenaline. Life is constantly moving along at Mach speed. Cars are quickly proceeding to their destinations. You are a witness to the beauty and mediocrity of daily life. Everyone branches off to their own personal terminus: doctor, school, meeting, store, etc. It’s easy to recognize and sympathize with the people I share the world with below. The roads are all carefully planned to get people from Point A to Point B (although sometimes you do wonder what the road planning commission was thinking about!). It’s comforting to witness people doing exactly what I do every single day. It’s a bond we all share with one another, even though it’s not always enjoyable.
Night flights are distinct. They are pretty rare for me. They seem unorthodox and more dangerous. It’s uncomfortable not being able to see everything as one would during the daylight hours. The excitement of my first night flight during training was unforgettable. The whole atmosphere around the airport was different. It was eerie. Everything was quiet around the airfield and the FBO. There was a security guard looming around in his security car with his giant spotlight. All of the friendly faces of students and other instructors had disappeared for the day. The line boys were gone. The preflight was extremely frustrating; trying to balance a flashlight in one hand and check the gas tanks and oil level with the other. Of course, being careful not to blind myself with white light, too!
As my instructor and I lifted off the runway and into the air, it was more calm than I had anticipated. The air was so smooth! The view was vastly different. The city lights twinkled and made everything below us radiate. The city seemed mellow and peaceful. It was nearly impossible to discern individual cars traveling the roads. The chatter on the radio was considerably more quiet. It was relaxing. From that point on, flying at night would become one of my favorite ways to travel. Each time, I realize what a unique position I’m in that not many get to experience. I’m grateful. During that time, my mind is willingly quieted like the rest of world. I choose to listen to the hum of the engine versus music streaming into my headset. The tasks of piloting are less harried. The dark sky transports me and my mind to a different place. It’s acceptable for me to just enjoy the ride. This is the time to not think about what comes tomorrow, but allow myself to become what surrounds me: calm, quiet and easy-going.
Each flight comes to an end (hopefully at my planned destination!). Sometimes, I just want the flight to go on and on. Don’t they always seem to end too soon? Inevitably, once it’s time to land, as the airplane gets closer to the runway, it’s time to reset and get back into full-on concentration mode. Life will once again be busy and noise will fill my surroundings. My days are filled with activities, appointments, errands. Thankfully, flying at night has become more and more my preferred time to travel. It’s easier for me to schedule as well. If flying at night seems intimidating, practice it more with a friend or instructor. Every pilot can find joy in night flying if they allow themselves.