Night Flying and Crazy Landings

Wow. That was probably the most interesting flight yet. We started off heading to the Northwest tracking Sparta VOR. Tom made me don the hood and do some climbs and descents while tracking the VOR. I did a 180 degree turn and setup for some maneuvers. First a power-off stall, then a power-on, then some steep turns. All went well (I could’ve been quicker with the flaps on the power-off, and I did lose 100 feet in the steep turn, but not bad.) Somewhere in there we also did some unusual attitudes – it’s all a blur now. We headed back to Caldwell… and that’s when the fun started.

SPOILER ALERT (if you’re flying with Tom) I needed to do 8 more night landings to reach the requirement of 10. This is how they went:

First Landing: The first one was normal. We were coming from the West, so we entered a left base for Runway 4.

Second Landing: For the second landing, Tom turned off my landing light, so I couldn’t really see the runway markings. As we were landing, I said, ” Thanks for turning my landing light off.” He replied, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” He was right.

Third Landing: My landing light stayed off for takeoff and while we were on the downwind, Tom turned all the cockpit lights off. I couldn’t see any of the instruments. I asked if I could use my flashlight. He said, “No.” The landing was fine and done by feel. Could it get more interesting?

Fourth Landing: I still had no instruments or landing light on takeoff. I setup for another landing. I put the flaps in at 10 degrees like normal. I turned base. It felt kind of weird. We didn’t seem to be descending like normal. I pulled out some power and raised the nose. I put in 20 degrees of flaps. Turning final, it was apparent we were going much faster than normal. The runway closed in quickly and I had the power all the way out very early. I didn’t put the rest of the flaps in… I figured we could land fast. We landed fine and very smoothly. I went to put the flaps up right away and realized they were already up. That’s when I figured it out. Every time I put the flaps in, Tom was taking them out. Ugh. But it worked.

Fifth Landing: On the next one Tom asked, “Do you want the good news or the bad news?” By now I’ve learned that the bad news means he’s going to pull the power. And he did. The good news was that he gave me my lights back. Yay – as if that was going to last long.

Sixth Landing: Yup. What one hand giveth, the same hand taketh away on the next landing. This was another engine-out approach, but this time with no lights. “How am I supposed to know if I’m at the best glide speed?”, I was thinking. I didn’t know, but I did land it and that’s what mattered. I believe my comment after landing was, “Holy crap.”

Seventh Landing: I got a break on this one. I had engine power, but I didn’t have a landing light, cockpit lights, or flaps. By this point, however, I was getting quite used to getting all the cues from outside. I mentioned to Tom that this really gets you connected with the outside. It was really all by feel. It was a fast approach, and a bit of a smack onto the runway, but not terrible.

Eighth Landing: I got my cockpit lights back, but not my landing light. At about 100 feet, Tom says, “deer on the runway!” For the first few seconds I thought, “I don’t see a deer” and “How the hell does Tom see anything on the runway, there are no lights on it?” Then I realized he just wanted me to do a go-around. And that’s what I did.

Eighth Again: And the grand-daddy of them all… a complete failure. No engine, no landing light, no cockpit lights, no flaps. Luckily I still had aileron, elevator and rudder. We landed smoothly and we were done. Amazing.

That was really a lot of fun.

Plane: N677DM (C172)
From: CDW
To: CDW
Duration: 1.8