Night flying is not the most common type of operations we perform. Night flying has different and generally higher risks associated.
To mitigate those risks and fly comfortably, it is essential to know and review the night flying techniques, operational and human factors differences from day flying. One recurring issue is cockpit and instrument lighting.
Prior to the transition from analog to digital instruments (EFIS, PFD etc), we have all been exposed to the use of flashlights and other gadgets to light up the cockpit, instruments, charts and checklists. We are all too familiar with the difficulties of holding the tip of your flash light in your mouth, while one hand holding the yoke and the other the checklist.
The growing implementation of iPads, whether they are used as documentation, moving charts or checklist, partially solves the night lighting matter. However, there are features to consider in order to be used efficiently and safely.
Multiple risks are linked to night flying, most of which are related to our vision. Due to the physiology of the eye, limitations on our sight senses are experienced in low light conditions, such as the night, leading to different types of illusion, in and out the flight deck. Outside the cockpit, the common ones are:
· Somatogravic illusion: false sensation due to no clear horizon.
· Autokinetic effect: When staring for too long at a single point of light with a dark background, it may appear as moving.
· Dark hole effect: During a dark night with few lights or identifiable ground features, a visual illusion that the aircraft is higher than it actually is may occur, resulting in landing short or hard landing.
· Flicker vertigo: Flickering lights, in or out of the flight deck may trigger: disorientation, dizziness, nausea or confusion.
Cockpit and instruments lighting
· Night blind spot: Due to the distribution of rods and cones on the retina, if the ambient light is below cone threshold light intensity, a blind spot 5 to 10 degrees wide develops in the center of the visual field. As a result, an object viewed directly at night may not be detected because of the night blind spot and, if it is detected, may fade away.
· Dark adaptation: Process by which eyes increase their sensitivity to low levels of illumination. The adjustment takes longer depending on the amount of light in the environment that a person has just left. It can take up to 30 min to adapt to the luminosity.
· Scanning techniques: Slight different technique is used at night. We should scan from the furthest object to the closest. An average of 2 to 3 seconds is to be observed per item/object.
· Flicker vertigo: Flickering highly illuminated lights of the flight deck may trigger disorientation, dizziness, nausea or confusion.
· High intensity lighting/ Flight deck lighting: Excessive illumination, especially light reflected off the canopy, surface inside aircraft, snow, or from flight deck and instruments illumination can cause uncomfortable squinting, watering of the eyes or even temporary blindness.
As part of the increasing incorporation of iPad use in commercial and general aviation, we developed an innovating electronic checklist all rolled into one app.
We dedicated a lot of time and effort to incorporate a must feature, which is the dark/ night mode. More than just a trend in any app and devices, it is the safety provided for night operations that we have achieved. The ability to make the switch over a screen easier on the eyes at night is essential and necessary for safe operations and maneuvers in dark environment.
Dark/night mode is larger than just flicking a switch and inverting some colours. The accessibility options completely change and the shades for structure and layout have been carefully considered. A quick swipe on your device will grant you access to the Control Center where you can turn ON or OFF the Nightmode feature and adjust the brightness to your liking.
Here are our few tips while operating in night conditions:
· Dim and adjust screen lighting
· Set auto-brightness to Off
· Make sure the app you use include a Night mode, such as CHECKL!ST
· iPad mounting
· Back up flashlight
· Adjust cockpits lighting
· Familiarize yourself with night flying illusions
· Fly higher
· Check cockpit lights
· Plan conservative routes with airport along the way in case of emergency
Now, you're ready to set off! Stay tuned on our next article, featuring more of CHECKL!ST's app features, dedicated to elevating safety for every flight.