Night flights are challenging. Visual information about the flight environment is greatly reduced as compared to daytime flying and is largely dependent on the amount of celestial illumination encountered throughout the flight. It is therefore of significant importance for the night pilot to know exactly when darkness falls, and if some level of illumination in the form of moonlight can be expected. Although the availability of celestial illumination is also highly dependent on the prevalent cloud cover, the first step should always be to find out at what time the sun will set, the moon will rise, and what percentage of the disk of the moon will be illuminated. Especially pilots utilizing Night Vision Goggles (NVG) depend on the latter piece of information.
The newly created website http://www.flyatnight.info is designed to help the pilot with this task by automatically consulting the official U.S. Naval Observatory’s sun and moonlight databases, and by merging datasets from different tables into just one convenient, printable, calendar style overview in PDF format with minimal user input.
Also, the three variations to the legal definition of “night time” found in the U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) – as for instance applied to night Pilot in Command (PIC) currency, proper logging of night flight time, or aircraft lighting requirements – often leave student pilots or low time night flight pilots confused. The “Expanded View” tables provided by this website alleviate the situation by enriching the table data with valuable pointers to the corresponding regulations. Especially flight students will find this tool extremely helpful in learning to understand the legal environment of flying at night.
The following are major benefits of www.flyatnight.info:
– Excellent tool for planning night flights, both in training and professional environments
– Equally valuable to all pilots: fixed wing or rotary, student, leisure or professional pilots
– Vital for Night Vision Goggle (NVG) flights to remote areas lacking ground-based lighting
– Accessible even via internet-capable smartphones
– Worldwide coverage
– Free of charge
The author of the website, Markus Huettner, is an active Emergency Medical Services (EMS) helicopter pilot flying for a well-established aeromedical program in North Carolina, and is a Board member of the National EMS Pilots Association (www.nemspa.org). He holds U.S. and European Commercial Helicopter Pilot licenses, Instrument, Certified Flight Instructor and Certified Flight Instructor Instrument licenses, and is certified to fly missions at night by use of Night Vision Goggles.
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