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Night Autos


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Would like your input on night autos

 

Have you received any training in night autos?

If you have, at what point in your training did you receive it?

Have you had to actually do a night auto?

 

Thanks

 

Fly Safe

Clark B)

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I just did a night flight yesterday with a couple of autorotations. I'm about two-thirds the way through my private training. I did a straight in auto and 180 auto onto a controlled field and a forced landing on our way back to our homebase. I find that I needed to rely on my instruments more since outside references were few especially the forced one with the only light being our landing lights.

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Would like your input on night autos

 

Have you received any training in night autos?

If you have, at what point in your training did you receive it?

Have you had to actually do a night auto?

 

Thanks

 

Fly Safe

Clark B)

 

Yes - once, prior to PPL, with both landing lights on & off, & no never had to actually do one for real.

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I try to teach them every time I take a student on a night flight. It's a big eye opener when you close the throttle at 700ft over fields in the dark.

 

I don't see a problem with doing autos at night; however, I would recommend doing them at an airport. Everyone knows that wires kill more of us than just about anything else. It's really easy to tell yourself that you know every wire and tower in your own area of operation, but unfortuately that mentality is exactly what gets pilots killed. Even in the daytime I have my students recover above 400ft AGL from a simulated engine failure unless we're at an airport. That's just my way of making sure I don't become a statistic and kill a student in the process. If you do them at night, climb a little and recover high if you're conducting them off airport.

Edited by nsdqjr
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I've done many at night... All power recovery. Depth perception and judging where the ground is is definitely problematic. I teach them as an eye-opener to students on night flights as well.

 

I knew somebody that actually did one at night. Not proud to say I knew this person. It was his third aircraft accident in his flying career the last time I had seen him (1985'ish). Believe it or not, he became a pilot for Comair shortly after this accident. Having been close to the events around the accident I can say that there was actually more stupidity than the NTSB report reveals about the accident... The accident report is here.

Edited by nbit
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All I can say is WOW...I hope he keeps flying in TN, 2000 miles away from me !

Yeah...

Sad thing was, this helicopter was just a couple of months new out of the factory. It had possibly the most beautiful paint job I have ever seen on a helicopter. At least no one was killed... The accident was predictable, sad to say...

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When I was flying for the state police, we had dispensations from the authority to fly lower than normal in the B206s, by day and by night. One of the conditions of the dispensation was that we did emergency checks a minimum of every 3 months, The checks included full touchdowns by day and by night. The night EOLs were to a square of grass 100' x 100', on a dark section of a secondary airfield, with a small council yellow warning lamp on each corner.

 

Light for the landing came from the nightsun, but with 2 pilots in the front, both with hands on or near controls, the nightsun controller was handed to the observer in the back. He was unable to see exactly where the beam was pointing, so we would call short instructions to him to keep it pointing at the spot.

 

I must say that i disagreed with the Chief Pilot's insistence that every auto was to touchdown, because in the real world, the important bit is to choose a spot from altitude, fly a profile to get yourself there, flare to finish the auto, and from there on, you are in the hands of the gods as to what is underneath you. But at least your crash will only be from 5-10 feet and zero knots. A power termination would achieve every training objective, without introducing the chance to wreck the bird after a successful auto. Unfortunately, he didn't believe me until after a tailboom got chopped off during a lumpy landing.

 

Never had to do an auto at night - in fact, never had to do a for-real auto anytime, during 38 years of flying. Did have a total electrics failure one night, but that's another story. ;)

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Man that almost seems fake......automotive gas into a turbine engine?!?!?!?! I mean come on, it takes more brain cells to tie your shoes than it does to know thats wrong!

 

The Hughes 369A (OH-6) actually states in the flight manual that gas can be used as emergency fuel if no other fuel is available (aviation grade gas, but still). You can fly a maximum of six accumulated hours between engine overhauls on this fuel.

I still wouldn't have done it though, and especially at night.

 

I did night autos during my training, both for private and commercial. I show my students a couple as well, just so they have experienced it and seen the difference.

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Well... Auto gas and 100LL are very different. I believe that the auto gas is more likely to cause pre-mature damage to the hot section blades, which have limited lifetime with alternate fuels, i.e. - not kerosene-based.... The manual does state aviation fuel as the alternative as I remember it. Another thing, according to the accident report, they didn't seem to have enough fuel to get to their destination. I happen to know they obtained their auto fuel in Columbia, TN and their destination was Smyrna, TN. There is substantial distance between those locations. (Hmmm... Would have been nice to have that information in the NTSB report.) Ten gallons of auto gas was probably not enough fuel to get there. ...And I believe auto gas will burn at a different rate than kerosene-based fuel. Not sure if it is faster or slower... Maybe some guru here can tell us.

This aircraft also went down in a rural area, in a cornfield as I understand it. Not the best choice. There wasn't very many lit areas there at the time. It was mostly farmland in that area, 20+ years ago.

 

Don't mean to get the thread going off-topic.. Just wanted to mention that there was a case of someone I knew who did an auto at night, and point out they are seldom successful. This particular case was a worst case scenario, which is maybe an understatement if you look at the chain of mistakes. Looking into the accident reports is a great way to avoid repeating history.

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Well... Auto gas and 100LL are very different.

I agree, however it states 80/87, 100/130 or 100LL AVGAS (80/87 was not that different from MOGAS, and this accident was back in the 80's when 80/87 was still around)

My point was just to illustrate how versatile the turbine engines are.

The biggest difference between AVGAS and MOGAS is that the AVGAS evaporates slower, so i would suspect a higher burn rate for MOGAS, it also makes it more common to experience vapor-lock with MOGAS.

In the 500 manual it also states that you can use a mix between AVGAS (any grade) and JET-A as alternate fuel in cold weather. This mix has no restrictions as to operating hours between overhauls. It should be mixed in a 2:1 ratio, JET-A to AVGAS.

Edited by flyby_heli
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Other engines stipulate a mix of 4:1 as an emergency fuel, rather than an alternative fuel.

 

But when you realise you are not going to make it on the fuel you have, and decide to land and get some Mogas, you will probably be down to 150 lb and will only be able to take on 35 lb of petrol - won't get you much further, just move the site of your accident away from the service station a bit.

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The Vietnam era Army taught touch-down night autos in primary, TH-55s, -13s, and -23s. I don't remember if it was in P-I (0 - 60) or P-II (60 - 110 hours).

Edited by Wally
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Just a few cents to add here regarding training of Nite Auto's. L/E departments may require nite auto's for profiency, and this is probably a requirement that is needed several times during the year. I have seen a few L/E guys coming in to where I train at for Nite Auto's, along with other Emergency Procedures Training.

 

I think practicing Nite auto's is a good thing in a controlled environment (no wires and flat area - airport preferred) and with a proficiant instructor that knows how to teach nite auto's. I haven't done any yet, but I am going to ask my instructor if we can try them sometime soon when we do a nite flight.

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Just a few cents to add here regarding training of Nite Auto's. L/E departments may require nite auto's for profiency, and this is probably a requirement that is needed several times during the year. I have seen a few L/E guys coming in to where I train at for Nite Auto's, along with other Emergency Procedures Training.

 

I think practicing Nite auto's is a good thing in a controlled environment (no wires and flat area - airport preferred) and with a proficiant instructor that knows how to teach nite auto's. I haven't done any yet, but I am going to ask my instructor if we can try them sometime soon when we do a nite flight.

 

 

Roger- one flight at night and you will never want to fly during the day again.....really awesome... I never did a night auto in my life...guess I should add it to the list.

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Goldy, hopefully you can do the nite auto in the 300, a little more forgiving hahaha! We have done some flying during sunset, and its awesome and beutiful as the sun goes down over San Bernardino/Riverside and the Cajon Pass on a clear evening.

 

When I was getting my PADI Advance Diving Cert many moons ago, we did a nite dive and it was one of the best dives I have ever done in my life. It was a full moon that night and we never did have to turn on our hand lights it was so bright. Sounds like nite flying will carry over as well, can't wait!

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While flying at night, you may think that a suitable forced landing area might be that dark square near the freeway, probably a sports oval. See that area in daylight, and it is a quarry or a power substation.

 

Night flying might look romantic and pretty, but those dark bits will hurt. In my part of the countryside are many areas lit like fairyland at night, but in the day you see that these areas are open-cut coal mines.

 

The first time you get away from lights to an area that is REALLY BLACK, you will appreciate instrument training. Take off from a lit airfield on the coast, turn away from the land and see how your clacker valve starts taking bites out of the seat cushion.

 

Take off from a pad in a remote area (and I mean remote!), and the transition from visual flight to an instrument climb, not trusting the senses, will take all the training willpower you have. :o

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Thanks for the words of advice EricHunt! I am glad than an instructor will be with me when we do go. The thought about minimal visual references on a moonless night makes me pucker a little, along with making it back to the right airport as well!

 

Trusting and using your instruments is something that is starting to become very evident and pushed in the curriculum as well.

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Night Autos

 

Great fun, but difficult to judge descent rate when learning. The problem is, many of the the references you used during the day, just aren't there at night. Most of all, the Tip Path Plane! Add to that horizon, distance cues, depth perception cues (apparant shapes of objects), ground markings and objects and the night auto becomes quite a skill of judgement. Its amazing how much your brain takes in when you don't know it! You only realise this when these cues are gone.

 

It is very easy for students to become fixated on the brightest items in their field of view. This is usually the spot where their landing light is shining. But this gives no depth perception and they can easily get a ground rush. Eleavator and somatagraphic illusions often set in too. This is seen by over correcting the level-out.

 

So what tips can I offer for night autos? - Force yourself to moves eyes between objects further afar, the landing spot and objects at 45 degrees down and sidewards, at least until last 500'. In otherwords, give your brain as much information as possible, with which it can compute your position in space. Resist the urge to fixate on 'straight down'. This will give time to develop a sub-concious judgement of rate of descent. Cross reference with the altimeter often, but don't forget to fly the aircraft (speed and rpm control). Although the 'exact altimeter altitude' might not be true (why I say last 500'), the 'trend' is about right. It helps increase your spatial awareness. RadAlt can be trusted much lower of course. Start to level out early and progressively, to reduce the proprioreceptive illusions. Look to the side (as well as ahead) to judge your height and airspeed.

 

As far as needing to do one for real emergency at night, I haven't, and I only know one person who has. He brought the helicopter down commendably into a parking lot. While he walked away, passers by thought it was all meant to happen!

 

Night Flying in general

 

I second Eric's comments. Night flying needs to be given respect. Consider the equipment you have before you choose to fly out over a featureless unlit terrain at night. In a single...??? engine failure will almost certainly result in a catastrophy. Normally at night YOU CAN SEE NOTHING! Even a full moon will fail to light up those little bushes, wires, a tuft of grass, farmer's fence etc...etc...

 

In Florida, some instructors would take their students over the swamp for night training....or they'd plan cross countries with extended periods over this terrain. Not me. I used to think this was insane. Night cross countries in a single engine piston for me were along roads 99% of the time.

 

On a dark night your eyes play tricks on you. Disorientation is easy. Again, consider your instruments, as essentially you are instrument flying if you have no horizon. Consider your skill to use those instruments too. If you don't have the equipment* or the skill, stay over the highways and bye ways, choose altitudes where you can autorotate to lighted areas or wait until morning. (*I personally don't think people should be night flying without an attitude indicator at the very least.)

 

I can honestly say that I have caught myself getting most of the night illusions we learn and teach about in groundschool. Maybe only for a split second at a time, but its very interesting when it happens. 'Scuse the pun, but being able to recognise these illusions on a dark night really is enlightening. Pay attention in ground school.

 

One thing to add here (regarding the disorientation discussion) is the clouds and weather. With little or no surface lighting, but some moonlight, the lighter patches are often holes in the clouds. OTOH, with no moonlight, but some surface light, its the other way around. The lighter patches are clouds and the darker patches are holes in the clouds. Sometimes you might think you are 1000' below a cloud layer, when actually you are just underneath it. Quite often you just can't tell what's what until you start to loose ground features. Then you need to get out of that fast. Whatever you do, don't lose the ground! Rainclouds, fog banks, storms etc..etc.. all become harder to detect at night. Do you see what I mean?

 

Funnily enough, I get to do some night autos in a S76 tomorrow night for a VMC company checkout. Whoopee!

 

Joker

Edited by joker
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I have never done autos at night - hmmm, never really thought about it before to be honest. That would be interesting, and I would hope that my seat cushion would still be flat after the flare :blink: .

 

In general I don't like flying at night, especially in a (single engine, as that's all they'll give me the keys to) helicopter. I did the bare minimum night flying for my commercial rating, and that was the last time I flew after dark.

 

Before anyone jumps all over me, I fly for fun and (for the time being) not pursuant to a career as a pilot, as much as I would like to, so I will keep my helo flying to when it's (mostly) light outside.

 

Dave Blevins

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