CFR 61.57(b)

CFR 61.57(b)

In today’s installment, I decided I should also get current in terms of CFR 61.57(b), night take offs and landings. The regulation states

no person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft carrying passengers during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise, unless within the preceding 90 days that person has made at least three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise

Since this weekend, Vicki and I are flying to Oshawa (Hurricane Ivan permitting), and that *might* involve night flight, I figured I’d better be current for carrying passengers at night. Sunset was 7:20 last night, so at 8:20, I showed up at the airport intending to do three stop-and-goes in N9105X, one of our Archers. But as I was pulling into the parking lot, I see Lenny and our new member taxing in in N38290, the club’s Warrior. Since the Warrior is slightly cheaper to fly than the Archers, and I could save them the trouble of putting the plane away and me the trouble of getting it ready, I ran out to the field and offered to take it.

Lenny said that the night was a little bit hazy, but other than that it was clear and very smooth. I decided to go with Plan B – instead of trying to do three stop and goes at Rochester, I’d fly over to Batavia at do two at Genesee County airport, and then come back to Rochester. That would make it a tiny bit more interesting, and spread the airport neighbour annoyance out a bit instead of concentrating it in one place. It was too bad Ledgedale Airpark had their runway lights NOTAMed out of service, or I would have made it a triangle flight.

I haven’t flown the Warrior in AGES, (since May of 2003 according to my electronic logbook), and it’s a much smaller and lighter aircraft than the Lance. It even seems lighter on the controls than the Archers, but I’m not sure if that’s true. Maybe that’s just because it doesn’t have an autopilot so the only thing attached to the control surfaces is the yoke. It’s also not much of a climber, but then neither is the Lance.

On the way there, the approach controller at Rochester felt it necessary to read me a NOTAM for an unlighted tower 1 mile east-southeast of Batavia. He said the tower top was 837 feet MSL (above sea level). Well, since the aiport elevation is 913 feet MSL, if I’m a mile from the airport at 837 MSL, I’ve got bigger problems than whether there’s an unlighted tower out there.

Spotting Batavia at night is no big problem. There is a part of Interstate 490 and a railway line that both lead you directly to it. And if that wasn’t enough, just as I was thinking “that must be it”, somebody turned on the “rabbit” – the flashing approach lights. Actually I’m a bad person because I didn’t look up the sequence to turn on the pilot controlled lighting before I went. Usually these places are activated by clicking the microphone 7 times on the common frequency, but I think this one you have to click it 7 times three times in succession. At least the lights never went out at an inopportune time, so I guess I did the right thing.

The landings went fine, except it felt like I was dive-bombing the airport from high above. When you consider that most of my recent experience is seeing very long and wide runways from the 3 degree glideslope and at 120 knots in broad daylight, and here I am at 65 knots and coming down on a much narrower and shorter runway at night, and it’s a wonder I didn’t try and round-out about 10 feet below the runway. But I didn’t. I made some nice squeakers. I had a little problem with the turns from downwind to final – I seemed to be doing my downwind leg way too close to the runway, so I didn’t do a real base leg, just did a 180 degree turn and actually overshot the runway doing that. I think the problem is that instead of paralleling the runway on downwind I was actually following the Interstate, which isn’t quite parallel.

Anyway, after my two landings, I headed on back to Rochester. I heard somebody on the frequency who was heading for Ledgedale, and I wondered how he’d find it when suddenly I see Ledgedale’s runway lights come on. Hey! The NOTAM lied! (I just checked, and they’re still NOTAMed out of service).

Rochester Airport at night just looks like a big black hole in the middle of all the city lights. It’s important that you are looking at the right hole, or you’ll find yourself lining up on Irondequiot Bay like I did a few months ago. You don’t see the runway lights until you’re lined up with them, so basically you try and figure out which of the lights around the periphery of the hole are the terminal buildings, and you know roughly where the runway is from there. I was somewhere north of the black hole and still trying to figure this out when the controller said “resume own navigation, join the right downwind for runway 28 and contact tower”. The tower controller just said “cleared to land.” Much peering and puzzling followed. Fortunately just as the GPS was showing me crossing the bread-crumb trail from Saturday’s practice approaches, I could see the lights for Runway 22. That helped me figure out where 28 must be, although I still couldn’t see the lights for 28. So by a combination of estimating my position from the terminal buildings and following the 100 heading on my compass, I got to where I could turn a short base and get lined up properly.

I much prefer coming in IFR and getting vectors right to final. I guess I’m spoiled that way.

Anyway, in spite of the problems finding the runway at Rochester at night, I do like flying at night. It’s peaceful and the winds are usually pretty calm, the radio frequencies uncluttered and the controllers laid-back.

One thought on “CFR 61.57(b)”

  1. Another nice thing, actually two things, about night flying are that A) lots of pilots will just stay home rather than fly at night and II) all the planes flying have bright lights on. Chances of a midair go way way down.


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