Notes for new airplane pilots--headlamp for night
August 30 2005 edition
steve at aeroexperiments.org
Most of my night-time airplane flying has been in a small assortment of rented
Cessna 152's. On some, most of the instruments
are lit by internal lights or post lights, and on others the red floodlight
mounted on the cabin ceiling, behind the pilot's head, is the main source of
lighting for the instrument panel. When the red overhead floodlight is the main source of panel lighting, it's often desirable to adjust it to a very low intensity to maximize the visibility of the outside world, but this leaves the gauges and switches at the bottom of the panel poorly lit. When most of the instruments have internal lights, it's often desirable to leave the red overhead floodlight turned off, but there are invariably a few instruments that lack internal lighting and get left in the dark, and the electrical switches, flap handle, flap position indicator, etc will also be left in the dark. Since the switch for the overhead red floodlight is above and behind the pilot's head, it's a bit awkward to reach up and turn it on when needed. In all cases it is helpful to have a ready source of additional illumination that is easy to switch on and off and that can be easily directed on a particular item of interest.
I've found that wearing a headlamp with a red beam is a good
solution to these problems. The ready
source of additional illumination allows the internal instrument lighting and
the post lights and the red overhead dome light to be turned down very low,
maximizing the visibility of outside features.
The on/off switch is very easy to reach, and the light is instantly
directed to whatever instrument or control is of interest, or to a map. I've not found reflections off the
windscreen to be problem. I favor a very inexpensive (under 15$), lightweight model of the "Energizer" brand that runs on 3 AAA batteries and includes both red and white
LED lights and an easy-to-operate sliding on-off switch.
Better yet would be a similar light that attached directly
to a pilot's headset.