To prevent these illusions and their potentially hazardous consequences, pilots can:

  1. Anticipate the possibility of visual illusions during approaches to unfamiliar airports, particularly at night or in adverse weather conditions.
  2. Consult airport diagrams and the Chart Supplements for information on runway slope, terrain, and lighting.
  3. Make frequent reference to the altimeter, especially during all approaches, day and night.
  4. If possible, conduct aerial visual inspection of unfamiliar airports before landing.
  5. Use Visual Approach Slope Indicator (VASI) or Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) systems for a visual reference or an electronic glideslope, whenever they are available.
  6. Utilize the visual descent point (VDP) found on many nonprecision instrument approach procedure charts.
  7. Recognize that the chances of being involved in an approach accident increase when some emergency or other activity distracts from usual procedures.
  8. Maintain optimum proficiency in landing procedures.

Night Emergencies

Perhaps the greatest concern about flying a single-engine airplane at night is the possibility of a complete engine failure and the subsequent emergency landing. This is a legitimate concern, even though continuing flight into adverse weather and poor pilot judgment account for most serious accidents.

If the engine fails at night, there are several important procedures and considerations to keep in mind. They are as follows:

  • Maintain positive control of the airplane and establish the best glide configuration and airspeed. Turn the airplane towards an airport or away from congested areas.
  • Check to determine the cause of the engine malfunction, such as the position of fuel selectors, magneto switch, or primer. If possible, the cause of the malfunction should be corrected immediately and the engine restarted.
  • Announce the emergency situation to air traffic control (ATC) or Universal Communications (UNICOM). If already in radio contact with a facility, do not change frequencies unless instructed to change.
  • If the condition of the nearby terrain is known and is suitable for a forced landing, turn towards an unlighted portion of the area and plan an emergency forced landing to an unlighted portion.
  • Consider an emergency landing area close to public access if possible. This may facilitate rescue or help, if needed.
  • Maintain orientation with the wind to avoid a downwind landing.
  • Complete the before-landing checklist, and check the landing lights for operation at altitude and turn ON in sufficient time to illuminate the terrain or obstacles along the flightpath. The landing should be completed in the normal landing attitude at the slowest possible airspeed. If the landing lights are unusable and outside visual references are not available, the airplane should be held in level-landing attitude until the ground is contacted.
  • After landing, turn off all switches and evacuate the airplane as quickly as possible.