Have you ever flown during the daytime and watched the sky transition into sunset, then nighttime?
If you haven't, add it to your to-do list. It's a fun and beautiful experience.
I did several sunset flights during my commercial training and loved it every time. Below is my favorite photo from my best sunset flight experience:
While it's not the best photo, the sunset was transitioning into nighttime. The clouds were also overcast, so we were IMC coming back into our home airport.
So, what's the best way to prepare for sunset flights? Here's some tips:
1) Bring a flashlight
In fact, I bring two in case the battery on one dies. Specifically, your flashlight needs to have a red light. To prepare your eyes for night flying you should avoid bright white lights 30 minutes before, which if you're flying it includes that time you're flying in the sunset while the sky slowly darkens.
2) Unless your route of flight is forecasted to be "sky clear" or you've done some thorough weather planning using the Globalair.com Weather Tool then prepare for any possible IFR scenarios.
After I finished commercial, I continued to fly with another student on instrument flights so we could both gain IFR experience. We learned that weather changes quickly, and although we planned several times for VFR flight it ended up being best to file IFR in-flight. Flying in the clouds can be a lot of fun, but especially during nighttime it can be dangerous. Be careful, and make sure you're comfortable with the flight.
3) This one isn't necessarily a safety tip, but bring your phone or a good camera to take pictures!
You'll thank me later.
Above is another favorite flight of mine, and as you can see from the background we were in and out of the clouds during sunset. I'm sure if we had taken more time, some beautiful pictures would have came out of it.
Especially if you don't have the opportunity to do sunset flights often, make each one worthwhile and take pictures! It gives you something to look back on, and maybe even a new profile picture for Facebook ;)
4) Back to safety, because sunset/night flights are at the end of the day you need to ensure you're hydrated and well-fed before jumping in the air. Being hungry or dehydrated can have a real impact on your flying whether or not you realize it. I learned this the hard way by not drinking water before a day flight (in summer in Texas if I may add) and started to feel dizzy, so I made the best decision and cut the flight short. Don't wait until it's too late, because your decisions now can impact you later. Things like reaction time, decision making, and ability to fly the plane will start to deteriorate.
Use the PAVE and IM SAFE checklist from the Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge before each flight, it's there to keep you safe.
Remember that in aviation, safety should ALWAYS be the number one priority. Nothing else.
Aside from sunset flying, Globalair.com got a makeover so head to our main page to check it out! We still offer all of the same resources and services, but with a new and more efficient look.
Have any tips or fun stories from sunset flights? Share them with us! We'd love to hear from you.