Night Flying; The Pinnacle of Flying
C172 — N54538 — Night Flight, Santa Ana > (Torrance) > (LAX VFR corridor) > (Malibu) > (Pt. Mugu), and return same route — 1.7hrs
I thank the light for it shows me the way,
yet I cherish the dark
because it shows me the stars and the city lights.
My first night flight. Fond memories of flying that shall never fade. If I wasn't hooked on flying before, which I certainly was, I sure as hell am now.
It's a whole different experience at night, starting with the preflight. Gotta slow the preflight and be more careful, and not ruin your night vision, for which you need a good 30 minutes for full adjustment of the eyes to see in the dark. Cockpit management and organization is all the more important as well, so you're not fumbling around with charts or dropping things in the dark cockpit you can't see in. Pre-planning is essential to know the whole flight, the route, all navigation aids and frequencies, alternate airports, the terrain you'll be covering at any given point in case of forced landing, and of course weather minimum for night VFR which are 3 miles visibility, but I prefer clear or a good 5 miles. Pilotage and Dead Reckoning timing of checkpoints are essential to follow along the progress and track our location.
We took the easy way and followed along the coast. Although that's water on one side, it offered easy visual, and easy predictions for every section.
And there it is; the vast metropolis of shimmering city lights and tiny white and red lights along the streets and highways, neon signs, stadiums and baseball fields all lit up; All the sparkly diamonds of night life that never sleeps. Systematically aligned fireflies and embers plugged in and shining the way; It seems just second only to the majestic mountains, no other sight is more breathtaking than that of the night sky; impressing my soul with a sense of sublime enchantment. Oh yeah, this is where it's at.
Now remember this is congested Los Angeles, and if Santa Ana Class C is not enough, then of course there's LAX Class B; and they sort of built an airport right in the middle everything to break up the otherwise pristine coastline air space. And now we gotta cross over the top of LAX, one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world. It's called a VFR Corridor, and rules are quite specific. Tune the radio and VOR, align to the northbound radial, and pass over at the specified height of 4500ft. And of course announce yourself and remain vigilant of others also in the corridor. Good news is we get to fly right over LAX and that's also a vision to behold.
LAX done, then there's Santa Monica, SMO, right after that to keep an eye on. After that it's smooth sailing up to Malibu, where Point Dume beach juts out, and we turn around and do it all again southbound. Over LAX once again at 3500ft, on down passed Torrance and Long Beach to Santa Ana.
It all looks easy on paper, but finding the SNA airport in the pitch black dead dark is not as easy as all that.
Tower gave us an easy right Base, and a beautiful soft landing on a well lit runway, makes for a great happy ending to a spectacular night.
Farewell SNA and Sunrise Aviation.