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Night landings on wide runways without centreline lighting

The main runway at my home base (Cambridge EGSC) is 45m wide but has edge lighting only (no centreline lights). I recently made a night landing there (which I rarely do) and found judging the flare quite challenging. The lights were very much just peripheral vision. Landing light was on, of course, but I think the flashlight on my phone would have illuminated the runway better.

It may be that the challenge was due simply to the fact that I fly at night only rarely. But it seems self evident that it must be more difficult to land with edge lights only on a wide runway. Does anyone else have this issue, or have any tips (other than eating more carrots )?

I can understand if the airport doesn’t want to have centre lights – they can cause damage to light GA. But I cannot recall ever seeing reflectors on any runway centreline (as on roads). They could help a lot in creating perspective and would not cause damage at all.

TJ
Cambridge EGSC

TJ wrote:

creating perspective

Do you have a landing light (center headlight)? Night landings are made a lot easier if out of practice by using one….you can judge height pretty well by watching the spot light from it on the runway get smaller.

Last Edited by USFlyer at 15 Jan 22:07

One trick is to not look ahead, but look out the side. Much easier to judge your height above the rwy. When you’re happy with your height, transition back to normal view out front and flare.

TJ, I faced the same issue when I went flying on New Year’s Eve – I’m used to flying from an airport which had not only edge and centre line lighting, but also intermediate lighting between those two – the flare was simple enough to judge. Fast forward to New Year’s eve where I started and landed at Paderborn – unfortunately it only has edge and centre lighting (so better than Cambridge), the aircraft I was flying was a P28A hence no centre headlights, just the wingtip landing lights so I was also a little concerned about the flare until I’d got used to the difference in the reference lighting on the runway.

The only tip I can give is practice…..

TJ wrote:

…or have any tips…

Don’t flare. This is what I was taught and what I teach. A wide runway is (usually) also a long runway, there should be no reason to land short. When passing the theshold, reduce your sink rate to something like 200…300 ft/min and adjust your power so that your speed is close to Vref (1,3 times stall speed). Aim at the far end of the runway and when you feel your main wheels touch, cut the power. Works nicely with every aeroplane.

EDDS - Stuttgart

what_next wrote:

Don’t flare. This is what I was taught and what I teach. A wide runway is (usually) also a long runway, there should be no reason to land short.

Agreed. I hold a pitch attitude so I land on the mains, keep glancing to the side for perspective, and fly the plane onto the runway. The biggest danger is a stall above the runway. Although I do cut power when I have the surface in sight, I don’t raise the nose at that point.

EGTK Oxford

What I do as well to the tips above is to compare my actual altitude when above the runway with the published threshold elevation. It is a last quick look on the altimeter that tells me (next to what I see outside) how much there still is to go. It gives me the extra dimension in addition to looking outside. Then settle in as what_next and JasonC suggest with some power or no power (with shorter runways).

EHRD, Netherlands

AeroPlus wrote:

What I do as well to the tips above is to compare my actual altitude when above the runway with the published threshold elevation.

But beware, because altimeter settings go by steps of 1hPa or 30ft. So your altimeter could underread, or overread, by as much as 30ft even if the actual QNH/QFE is set and the instrument is calibrated well. At work we have the luxury of a radio altimeter for that (which we can’t use for anything else anyway because we are not CAT II approved due to limited downward visibility over the long aircraft nose).

EDDS - Stuttgart



I found Ron’s advice helpful. One other tip is not landing with full flaps, so there is less pitch down thus lower probability hitting with nose gear first, which works better along with the other recommendation of not flaring.

what_next wrote:

Don’t flare. This is what I was taught and what I teach. A wide runway is (usually) also a long runway, there should be no reason to land short. When passing the theshold, reduce your sink rate to something like 200…300 ft/min and adjust your power so that your speed is close to Vref (1,3 times stall speed). Aim at the far end of the runway and when you feel your main wheels touch, cut the power. Works nicely with every aeroplane.

Thanks for this tip. It’s good to have a technique that doesn’t rely on seeing the runway. I did think of doing something along these lines but thought that it was just inviting a bounced landing. Nice to know what approximate descent rate is right. I might try it out in daylight first – ATC may wonder what I’m doing but hey …

TJ
Cambridge EGSC
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