The CIX VFR Club Moon and Sun
Club Events - Trick or Treat
Test your night flight planning
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The CIX VFR Club
Club Events - Trick or Treat
Test your night flight planning Event: Peter Dodds.   Briefing: Peter Dodds.
  Briefing Wednesday 26th October, 2011  
Overview We rarely have events deliberately planned to be flown in the dark, but as winter beckons, and children dig out their skeleton suits for Hallowe'en, we shall go night flying.  Night flying is IFR. Few visual cues for navigation and uncertain terrain clearance are the challenges.  Correct flight planning is crucial for a safe arrival back on terra firma.  This will not be a sightseeing trip, but the lights on the ground are very pretty.  This is a challenge aimed at the more advanced Club pilot, but there is no reason why anyone shouldn't have a go at it.
Start Time and Place From 19:30 to 20:30 BST real time, on the apron at Wellesbourne Mountford EGBW.
However you must set the FS start time at 21:00UTC irrespective of what real world time you actually set off. 
Route The flight is from Wellesbourne Mountford to Cardiff at night.  The route is across country with few towns or other features visible at night.  The straight line track passes about 2.3 miles north of Gloucestershire Airport and then follows the north bank of the Severn Estuary which will be clearly visible if the moon is out.
H24 only except EGBW If you have a copy of one of the published flight guides such as Pooley's you will see the "Hours of Opening" of airports is sometimes shown as H24.  This means open 24 hours a day.  The NATS IAIP spells it out in full.  Although Wellesbourne Mountford is not H24, they do run Night Flying training, and stay open until 20:00 on Thursdays and Fridays. However, the Airfield Manager has kindly arranged to switch on the LITAS runway lighting and provide an AFISO especially for us on the Wednesday up to 21:30UTC..  However, only a few regional airports are open H24.  To save you looking, the NATS website will confirm that Cardiff and Bristol are open 24 hours and about half a dozen others further afield.
Weather ...or not Before starting we will check the weather. If it is unsuitable for our trip as planned, then we will fix it.
FSInn has a "CAVOK" button. Click this and you get calm clear weather.
Those using SB will need to turn off the on-line weather updates, and select calm in the FS weather options.
Remember that at night you can fly into cloud without realising it until you notice that the street lighting down below has disappeared.

Charts and Scenery

Scenery is somewhat irreleavant for this trip, but there are a few items of information you may find useful.  The default FS scenery gives generic (and awful) ground lighting. It is completely useless for navigation.  The Horizon Generation-X photographic scenery early versions overlay this, and you get no lights at all!  The latest version does give ground lighting showing light clusters for towns and ribbons of light-dots along roads. Ultimate Terraint Europe also provides interesting ground lighting.  However, none of these are reliable for navigation, so you are into accurate heading flying with stopwatch, and the radio navaids en route.
You do need aerodrome layout charts and and any VFR entry/exit route charts available.  Although the flight is classed as VFR, unless you request an instrument approach, your approach to Cardiff will normally be visual and is technically Special VFR.
Special VFR Flight under SVFR is only allowed in control zones, and always requires clearance from air traffic control.   It usually happens under two circumstances. Only the second concerns us here:
  • In some designated Class A airspace, where flight under visual flight rules (VFR) is not permitted and instrument flight rules (IFR) flight is the norm.
  • In other controlled airspace, when the local weather is less than the minimums required for flight under visual flight rules (VFR) and again IFR would be the norm.  Night flight is considered as "normally IFR flight".
Flight Planning The flight plan can be simply EGBW to EGFF, with "DCT" in the route box (meaning "direct") unless you plan to overfly Gloucestershire en route (above 2000 feet Gloster QFE to stay clear of their ATZ, please).

The precise route is at the pilot's discretion, but any intermediate or alternate stops must be at Airports which are open H24.  Intermediate stops may be full stop landings, stop and gos, or touch and gos, as you choose, but each leg must be filed and PIREPed separately.
ATC At the time of publishing this event plan, ATC has not been positively arranged, but we are working on having good ATC available for the event.

VOR Tracking

The Instrument Flight document in the Training section of the club web site contains a section on VORs and how to use them. If you are unsure how to track a VOR radial, download and have a look at this.
The document covers the use of NDB and DME for direction and distance measurements as well.

Radio Discipline

Take care not to let our Teamspeak chat cut across ATC. Stop any conversation immediately the R/T comes alive, then continue if "he wasn't talking to us". This is difficult because when transmitting on Teamspeak you can't hear the R/T. So be brief on Teamspeak, and be aware that ATC might be trying to get through. If anyone hears an R/T message which seems to be being ignored, just say "ATC is calling G-CIXN" if you have identified the callsign, or "ATC is calling us" which is a cue for everyone to be quiet on Teamspeak until ATC call again (which they will). Remember too that if asked to "Stand By" by ATC, you do not reply - not even "Roger", but simply wait until you are called again.
Remember also that there are several different ATC frequencies in use, and you may not be able to hear when communications are taking place. Make sure you have set and know how to use a Teamspeak mute switch.
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