Exercise 31 - Night Flying 1 - Circuits


Night Flying Equipment Order. ANO II, No. 6

Rotorcraft Air Transport Operations Order. ANO VII, No. 6



For the student to learn how to fly VFR at night.


Although there are no new flying skills required for flying at night, there are new sensations and visual cues for the pilot to become accustomed to. Circuits are a good introduction to night flying.


Tail rotors are even less visible at night than by day.

Teaching Points

    1. Point out that eyes take sometime to adapt to the dark. Pilots should avoid bright lights for at least 30 minutes prior to take-off.
    2. Discuss the problems of carrying out an effective pre flight inspection of the helicopter in the dark. When possible, this inspection should be carried-out before dark or in a lighted hangar. Items such as landing, instrument, and navigation lights can be checked separately just before start-up. It is essential that the electrical system and all lights and instruments are fully serviceable.
    3. Point out that the landing light can produce glare and disorientation when hovering or hover taxiing particularly over light coloured surfaces such as concrete. This can generally be avoided by adjusting the beam of the light.
    4. Where landing lights are not adjustable from the pilot's position (e.g. BH 47) it is sometimes safer to hover-taxi with the light out. Adequate ground reference must be available when this is contemplated. Non-adjustable landing lights should be pre-set to approximately 45° to the ground in order to illuminate an autorotation.
    5. Stress the need for good visual cues at night and point out how easy it is to become disoriented without them. A good weather briefing is a vital part of flight planning.
    6. Describe the Air Instruction to the student and stress the following points:
      1. Circuits
        1. Hover taxiing should be higher than by day, and slower.
        2. Transitions from the hover to forward flight should be of the "towering" type. A rate of climb should be initiated before moving into forward flight, and maintained throughout the transition.
        3. Climb out, cross-wind and downwind legs as by day.
        4. On the final leg, identify the landing point and carryout an accurate constant angle approach. The proper reduction of forward speed from the approach airspeed to nil ground speed at the hover, is more difficult than by day. Stress the need for looking out to the side of the helicopter at frequent intervals when making an approach, in order to check on the rate of deceleration.
        5. Due to a comparative lack of visual cues, more reliance has to be made on the flight instruments than by day. This must not be at the expense of a good lookout for ground reference, other traffic, etc.
      2. Emergencies
        1. In the event of an engine failure, the following sequence should be followed:
          1. Enter autorotation.
          2. Turn into wind if possible.
          3. Switch on landing light.
          4. Select forward speed for a constant attitude approach.
          5. Select a safe area to touchdown.
          6. Apply collective and land.
        2. Constant Attitude autorotations should be used at night whenever possible. This type requires no flare and is useful because the landing light remains effective throughout the landing sequence. Approach speeds are generally lower than those recommended for minimum rate of descent (e.g. BH47-45 kts, BH06-45 KTS).
        3. Airframe and engine emergencies not requiring an autorotation, as appropriate to type by day.
        4. Disorientation or loss of visual cues. Revert to flying by instruments, establish straight and level cruising flight followed by a gentle 180° turn in order to regain visual reference to the ground.



    1. Supervise the pre flight inspection.
    2. Demonstrate night pre take-off checks.
    3. Demonstrate hovering exercises and the circuit.
    4. Student practice.
    5. Demonstrate autorotations.
    6. Student practice.
    7. Demonstrate emergencies as appropriate to type.
    8. Student practice.
    9. Demonstrate recovery from losing visual reference with the ground.
    10. Student practice.


    1. Instructors are reminded that the privileges of a Student Pilot Permit do not include solo night VFR flight.
    2. Before commencing night flying a student should be reasonably proficient in instrument flying.
    3. The 5 hours of instrument flight time is in addition to the 10 hours night flight time. Instrument instruction that is carried-out at night cannot be logged by the student as counting toward both instrument and night flying experience.
    4. Autorotations to touch down by night are feasible but require more judgement than by day. Power recoveries at a safe height are an acceptable method of instruction where the extra risk cannot be accepted. In either case, autorotations should be practised over an area that is known to be flat, level, clear of obstructions and with adequate visual reference.