How do pilots fly at night?

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A pilot
If you have taken an evening flight, there is no doubt that you've wondered if flying at night is as safe as daytime flights
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Are you safer flying on a commercial airliner during the day?

Many people have asked themselves the question how do pilots fly at night? Of course, it's of particular interest when you're flying above the ground at 40,000 feet in the middle of the night. The question comes from the misconception that flying a plane is similar to driving a car. It is not. Driving a car is primarily a visual experience. When you're driving you depend entirely on seeing what's around you. You look through your windshield to see what's in front. You use your side windows to see what's beside you and your side and rear-view mirrors to see behind you.

Here is an explanation to the question: How do pilots fly at night?

Flying Instruments

Other than mirrors instrumentation essentially exists to physically move the car. This is not the case with flying a commercial aircraft. Instrumentation is the life blood of the plane and is absolutely necessary to fly. The instruments tell a pilot not only how fast he is traveling, but how high, in which direction, at what angle and whether the plane is tilted upwards or downwards, left or right.

Instruments are also used to tell if there are other aircraft in the area. When you're in a car even at highway speeds, you still have plenty of time to see oncoming traffic well before they reach you. With a commercial airliner this is not the case. These huge aircraft can travel at speeds in excess of 500 miles per hour. If two aircraft are heading directly for each other then, they are approaching more than 1,000 miles per hour. How much time would there be to react at that speed if you depended on looking out your front windshield to see what's coming at you? Not much!

Seeing Through the Windshield

So whether it's day or night, a pilot does not depend on what he can see through his windshield. In fact other than the takeoff and landing, a pilot does not really need his front windshield at all. During flight the pilots depend almost entirely on two things, their instrumentation and air-traffic controllers.

Because of the extremely high speeds involved, keeping planes from colliding with each other becomes the responsibility of the air-traffic controllers rather than the pilots. Even here instrumentation is essential. Air-traffic controllers keep an eye on everything moving in the sky. Using computers they can constantly monitor not only the position of all flying planes in the air, but of their direction and speed. This way, if two aircraft are on a collision course, the air traffic controllers can tell one of them to gain or lose altitude. Since planes work in a three-dimensional world unlike cars, they can simply go higher or lower without changing course and then having to correct and get back on course.

When They Need to See

The one time that pilots really need to actually see is when they land. There is a possibility that a pilot could land using instrumentation alone, but obviously actually seeing the runway to line up properly for a landing comes in handy. At night those beautiful bright blue and red lights along a runway tell a pilot where to line up for landing. Even during this time instrumentation is vital. But landing is the one time during a flight (not counting taxiing on the ground) when visuals are the most important.

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