May - There is a Citation Pilot that I have occasion to fly with now and then that has to be the best night flying pilot I have ever had the pleasure to fly with. The beauty of his night time patterns and approaches is that the numbers work out exactly the same in the night as they do in the day. He has reached this level of skill by making each day pattern and landing count. Flying "By the Numbers", and having the confidence of the desired result always repeating itself by perfecting his ability to hit the numbers each and every time. What do we mean by hitting the numbers, and how does this improve night flying. Hitting the numbers is simply flying the calculated pattern altitude as adjusted by conditions, NOTAMS, or Airport Facility Directory, and always at the proper airspeed and configuration. Placing the gear and flaps down at a predetermined time, and starting the turn to base at the same position. Flying to a calculated altitude mid way through the base leg, and turning final at the same time. This particular pilot sets the same power setting, and adjusts the pattern for wind conditions by speeding up or delaying final flap selection by a short time based upon experience and calculated altitudes for certain positions.
With such a close adherence to the numbers, and seeking perfection on each pattern, it is easy for him to translate this into a perfect pattern at night. Even when shooting black hole approaches with little or no references over the dark New Mexico desert, hitting the numbers takes all of the stress out of the approach, and gives him the confidence to make difficult approaches easy. A good pattern is the key to a good landing, and only by perfecting the numbers in the day time, can we perfect our night flying and avoid the common mistake of coming in high and hot.