LOW-LEVEL AND TACTICAL FORMATION
As your altitude increases, your ground-range visibility increases. Features such as roads,
railroads, and fence lines all look alike. Small towns become difficult to identify and you must
rely on large, prominent landmarks. Pinpoint fixing becomes more difficult.
109. NIGHT CHART READING
Night navigation is primarily done using DR. Fly the planned heading for the planned time at
the planned airspeed. Ground references are used to make corrections to DR navigation. The
primary altitude reference at night is the barometric altimeter while the primary reference during
the day is the RADALT. During darkness an unlit landmark may be difficult or impossible to
see. Lights can be confusing because they appear closer than they really are. Fixing on points
other than those directly beneath the aircraft is very difficult. Objects are more easily seen by
scanning or looking at them indirectly. This uses the portion of your eye best suited for night
vision. The pilot should preserve night vision by working with red lights or very dim white
light. Keep the cockpit lights as dim as possible and still see everything inside the cockpit. The
dimmer the interior lights, the better your outside visibility will be.
In moonlight, some prominent unlit landmarks are visible from the air. Coastlines, lakes and
rivers can be seen without difficulty. Sometimes reflected moonlight causes a river or lake to
stand out brightly for a moment, but this is usually too brief for accurate fixing. By close
observation, roads and railroads may be seen after the eyes are accustomed to the darkness.
Lighted landmarks, such as cities and towns, stand out more clearly at night. Large cities are
often be recognized by their shapes, but many small towns are darkened at night and are not
visible. Airfields with distinctive light patterns may be used as checkpoints. Military fields use
a double white and single green rotating beacon while civilian fields have a single white and
green beacon. At night, busy highways are discernible because of automobile headlights. The
key to night navigation is to choose very obvious, distinctive checkpoints (big picture) and keep
an eye on your timing.
The seriousness of becoming lost is actually relative to the weather and terrain conditions
encountered during flight. It may not be serious to be 3 miles off course over flat terrain and in
an area of excellent visibility; but in mountainous terrain with poor visibility, being off course as
much as 2 or 3 miles can kill you.
If you are not completely sure where you are, but you know you are near your course, you
should start a climb to a higher altitude (ESA is a good choice) until you can positively identify
your position. Climbing will give you more references and help you get terrain clearance in case
you cannot figure out where you are. Try to climb at your enroute airspeed and turn on time.
Realize that winds in the climb and winds where you level off will be different from those at
your original altitude. If you are able to positively locate your position, take a serious look at
your fuel and remaining route to determine if you should resume your route at the original
altitude or stay higher for increased fuel range.
LOW-LEVEL NAVIGATION 1-31