A Cessna Citation Mustang CE-510 Very light jet (VLJ) makes a visual approach and landing to runway 31 at the Nashville, Tennessee airport. Once cleared for the visual approach we follow a Boeing 767 visually to the runway. In this case, a wake turbulence encounter while following the heavy 767 is a very real concern. Its wake vortices are an invisible hazard and flying into the vortices of an aircraft of the size of the Boeing can cause the temporary loss of control or worse for a smaller aircraft. Our strategy to deal with this possibility is to stay above the wake vortices of the preceding aircraft. These vortices sink at 300 to 500 ft per minute and can last up to 2 minutes before dissipating. Since we can’t actually see these spinning horizontal tornado like columns of air that come off the wingtips of the heavy we stay one dot high on the glide slope as we descend to the runway. There is a fair amount of air traffic control communications in the video. Another interesting thing about the video is that this landing is just before the sun comes up. You can still see all the airport lighting and the two bright flashing lights on the approach end of the runway are the Runway End Identifier Lights (REIL’s) their purpose is to aid in identifying the end of the runway at night when the runway is surrounded by bright city lights.
Flying at night has its own rewards and challenges. On a clear winter night the view can be spectacular. At other times darkness and restricted visibility can increase pilot workload or cause disorientation. On this night we were treated to a spectacular view of Nashville Tennessee. Unfortunately video doesn’t capture the beauty that many pilots are treated to in the thin cold air at flight levels or flying over city lights on a clear winter night. This night we approached Nashville from the west just as the first bands of pink broke on the horizon. While on a wide downwind on the north side of the field Nashville approach cleared for the visual approach to runway 31. This route takes you over a large unlighted area to the east of the field which in the dark appears as a large void. The void is actually the J Percy Priest Reservoir. During night flights especially in poor visibility it’s easy to get disoriented or lose track of how high you are above the ground. In order to ensure adequate ground clearance the aircraft is flown at a minimum safe altitude(MSA) till its flight path intersects with a Visual approach slope indicator (VASI) or electronic glide path. This ensures that the airplane maintains a safe obstacle free flight all the way to the surface of the runway. On this flight there wasn’t a VASI so the ILS was used to back up the visual approach for terrain clearance. An ILS provides an electronic vertical path to the runway which displays on the pilots attitude indicator. Unfortunately, Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) accidents while avoidable have been happening since the dawn of powered flight. The FAA places great importance in CFIT training for pilots which is reflected in the training at pilot training centers Like FlightSafety. The best way to avoid CFIT is training, standard procedures, and good situational awareness.
A Cessna Citation CE560 takes off from Spirit of St. Louis airport (SUS) at sunset, climbs out over st Louis and makes a night Landing at Nashville International Airport (BNA)on runway 31. The middle of the video during this IFR flight is a night view of the aircraft cockpit.