Pilot Equipment - Night Operations

Before beginning a night flight, carefully consider personal equipment that should be readily available during the flight to include a flashlight, aeronautical charts and pertinent data for the flight, and a flightdeck checklist containing procedures for the following tasks, which can be found in 14 CFR part 91:
  • Before starting engines
  • Before takeoff
  • Cruise
  • Before landing
  • After landing
  • Stopping engines
  • Emergencies

At least one reliable flashlight is recommended as standard equipment on all night flights. A reliable incandescent or light-emitting diode (LED) flashlight able to produce white/red light and blue for chart reading is preferable. The flash light should be large enough to be easily located in the event it is needed. The white light is used while performing the preflight visual inspection of the airplane, and the red light is used when performing cockpit operations. It is also recommended to have a spare set of batteries for the flashlight readily available.

Since the red light is non-glaring, it will not impair night vision. Some pilots prefer two flashlights, one with a white light for preflight and the other a penlight type with a red light. The latter can be suspended by a string from around the neck to ensure the light is always readily available. One word of caution: if a red light is used for reading an aeronautical chart, the red features of the chart will not show up.

Aeronautical charts are essential for night cross-country flight and, if the intended course is near the edge of the chart, the adjacent chart should also be available. The lights of cities and towns can be seen at surprising distances at night, and if this adjacent chart is not available to identify those landmarks, confusion could result. These checklist items are not just for night flying, they are required for day light flying also. Regardless of the equipment used, organization of the flightdeck eases the burden and enhances safety. Organize equipment and charts and place them within easy reach prior to taxiing.