Night landing checklist
I’m a very lucky guy in many ways. I have my family, my health, a good career. I’ve been very blessed.
One unusual way that I’ve been blessed is that coming up on middle-age – OK, if you ask my wife I’m already there – I now have the best eyesight that I have ever had. I look at things like mountains in the distance and marvel at the detail that I see. Without glasses I see much better than I ever did when I used glasses. And I didn’t have eye surgery either, my eyes just got better.
I never used glasses as a kid but I sort of knew that my eye sight was a bit less than that of other kids. When I got my first medical I got the dreaded “holder shall wear correcting lenses” limitation and my first pair of eye glasses. Over the years I changed my prescription once and got another set of glasses. I always got the self-tinting kind, the kind that gets darker or clearer depending on the light, no sunglasses needed. I thought that was cool. About 4 years ago my flight physicians started to notice my eyesight had gotten about the same without glasses as with my glasses. I get 2 medicals a year now and after about 3 or 4 times getting my medical without the glasses, I tossed those puppies and started flying without.
All this to say that I’m still barely getting used to having sunglasses in the cockpit. Before I didn’t need them, my self-tinting glasses (I think there must be a real word for that) did the trick.
Below is a video we shot of our night landing at Djibouti last September, during a ferry flight to Nairobi. Very uneventful, the way things should be. The eventful part happened about 15 minutes before the landing, when we started our descent to Djibouti. We’d been flying over the Red Sea and the Sahara desert most of the day (coming from Jeddah) and I had donned my cool pilot-style sunglasses.
As we started our descent to Djibouti I had the worst time seeing the instrument panel. I’m flying from the right seat and could barely read the airspeed indicator on the other side. To make things worse I remembered reading a note on the Djibouti approach plate about using extreme caution because the runway can easily be confused with a city highway at night. I’m fussing at Ted: “turn up the panel lights, turn up the lights”. I fussed about the panel lighting in the older Cessnas that just isn’t very good but something in the back of my mind kept telling me this had happened before and the solution was real easy. But what the heck was it?
Then I remembered: my night landing checklist got a new item since I don’t wear those self-tinting glasses anymore:
“SUNGLASSES – REMOVE”
Then I saw the runway from miles away