A Great Night For Flying Right?

Updated: May 12, 2020

A few months back I did my first night flight with my friend in the back seat. For this flight, we flew to KSMF or Sacramento International Airport. We flew to the Sacramento Airport for a FOG flight (Fly Out Group) a group part of the San Carlos Flight Center. This flight was originally supposed to be only me and my airport friends, Jayden and Obed on one plane the Cessna 172 to the airport. There was a problem though, after doing my preflight weight and balance calculations the plane was way to heavy around the tail. So we all talked about it on the days coming up to the trip, on the Friday before the flight we had decided they were going to take their CFI and fly in a different plane while I took the Cessna 172 from Flight Center, BYF 12. After thinking it over and over again in countless times I started to think that it wasn't worth the price to just be the CFI and I flying up to Sacramento so I turned to my good school friend Jay as I have been telling him to come try the EAA Young Eagles program. Since he couldn't make it to the Young Eagles Program I decided to give him a Young Eagles flight myself just this time it was at night. With that it was set we were headed to Sacramento for a fun full moon flyers party.

The next day a Saturday I just finished filming my history projects with my classmates and Jay had just arrived at my house. It was late afternoon and the sun was setting slowly, so we hopped into the car and my parents gave us a lift to the San Carlos Airport. Reaching the airport a few minutes later the CFI I booked to fly with me was not here yet and was still out in a training flight with another member of the club. So I grabbed the key book for BYF12 and did the preflight packing everything up and getting ready to hop in and fly.

As the sun fell amongst the horizon we were up and running under the bright full moon. As we started taxing to the runup area of runway 30 the winds started to pick up. After take-off we did two right turns and entered the right downwind to get set up for the coyote departure. Flying over the water the radio was silent and I got a beautiful view of the full moon. After staring at it for about a minute I went back to scanning the sky for aircraft. While passing the Livermore Airport we realized the headwind picked up to about 30 - 40 knots and we were practically crawling towards our destination. As we got closer to the Sacramento Capitol Airport we were handed off to the Sacramento approach which guided us into a long final for 34 left. With about 5 nautical miles left till touch down capitol tower tells us that we had an airliner following us on final. knowing that it was definitely faster I attempted to speed up not knowing that I had forgotten to push the nose down to keep it from climbing. so we reach the threshold of the runway and I ended up a bit high on the glide path so I put the plane into a side slip to get us to lose altitude faster without gaining any airspeed. as we got closer to the ground I leveled the wings and touched down with my first night landing ever attempted. the hardest part of this flight was getting off the runway just because it was so dark and the only lights on the runway were the centerline lights which hid where the yellow painted lights were on the runway. Even though it was a slow long flight we got to Sacramento safe and sound and secured the plane. We all ran into the party just to find out that we were about an hour late.

At first, I was bummed out that we got their late knowing that I let my friend down on being able to get there on time. Showing him what a pilots party was like being able to talk to the other pilots, but instead we sat in silence talking between the two of us and eating cold pizza... well I was the one eating the cold pizza but besides that, we still got some pretty cool items from the trip. Some of which were the Sacramento Jet Center Water bottles, flashlight, and napkins. I know taking a stack of free napkins with no intention of using them might be stupid but hey, it's a free souvenir. One other great thing was that since we didn't make it on time and were pretty late we the FOG coordinator didn't need us to pay the 20 dollars, but there was a trade-off for it we had to clean the room and only had two slices of ice-cold pizza. In all the party was great although I do plan on making it on time the next time around to get the full experience of a greatly planned party.

It was time to head back to San Carlos so we took the plane got it ready figured we wouldn't need much fuel going back since we had the 30 - 40 knot tailwind in our favor. So I yelled "CLEAR!!!!" and the engine roared to life. Now this was the part that made me facepalm myself, I tuned into Capitol ground and asked for a taxi to Runway 34R since I wanted to get a good look at the aircraft sitting at the gates. The response I got from the ground controller in a 'are you kidding me voice' was "Do you reallyyyyyyy waaaaaaant to taxi alllll the wayyyyy over to runway 34 right??" I wanted to say yes but the CFI had a better idea which was to fly over the airport making a right downwind departure for runway 34L at the same time saving us some money and time on the way back home. So we took off flew over the airport at 500 feet practically buzzing the control tower and heading directly at the Oakland Airport.

Halfway to the Oakland airport, I asked if we could do a quick touch and go on the 28 runways at Oakland and he said yes so we made a call and got the all-clear to land the thing was it was super tough to see the runway since the two runways were right next to each other and had the same colored lights. But despite that, I managed to put the plane into a forward slip and gave it a soft touch on the runway bringing it to a full stop before taking off again and heading back home. making a final landing for the night, as we taxied up to Juliet parking and secured the plane I looked up at the clear night sky and took a deep breath knowing that the fun had just ended. We walked back to the building to drop off the key book and our parents picked us up to go home. I was exhausted after the flight but as I faded into a deep sleep I replayed the whole trip in my head just in awe with how far I flew that night.

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