How do pilots deal with incorrect navigation readings at night? How do they know where to fly?

  • At low altitude do they have to know the shapes of cities and villages?
  • At high altitude and speeds over an ocean, what is the procedure?
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's perfectly legal and safe to operate VFR at night - ie, no navigational equipment apart from a map, compass and a watch! $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Jun 16, 2018 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Dan That's true in the US, but there are other countries that don't allow VFR at night, e.g. Mexico. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Jun 16, 2018 at 15:01

1 Answer 1


This is no different then flying during daylight. Your first choice is GPS ( for most people :)). Failing that you fall back on radio navigation ( VOR ). Failing that you fall back on your charts and NavLog. NavLog is essentially pilotage and you rely upon your airplane speed and direction and checking waypoints along the way. If you chose your waypoints carefully ( on the ground when creating your NavLog, I use airports so that I can land of them in case of an emergency) and you know how they look like from air ( I take satellite photos ), assuming that your waypoints are 10-15 minutes apart and you took care of wind speed and direction in your navlog, there is really a minimal chance of getting lost.

Ocean is a different matter. Maybe you will need to look at stars or something. In VFR we are told not to fly over the water, day or night.

  • $\begingroup$ I forgot to mention that you can also call up ATC and ask for directions. $\endgroup$ Jun 16, 2018 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ Not to be relied on in say the middle of Nevada (at GA altitudes, anyway). $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jun 16, 2018 at 18:42

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