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End of Season Sunset Warning for SSA-OLC Participants

As the days get shorter as the end of the soaring season nears, the SSA-OLC Committee has been receiving complaints about flights after sunset without required aircraft lighting. Although the requirements for night flight begin at twilight for pilots in the US, the requirement for aircraft lighting begin at sunset. Gliders without approved lighting must land, and move clear of lighted runways and taxiways before sunset.

IGC flight logs contain a GPS time stamp which is the most exact time standard readily available. So, violations of this requirement are quite plain to see in these logs. The SSA Board was concerned about flight logs with obvious violations damaging the sport if they were posted in the public record of the OLC. So the board adopted a policy disqualifying such flights from the OLC, as well as FAI awards such as badges and records. See:

The SSA OLC Committee prefers that pilots voluntarily remove the flights, rather than having them removed by an admin. We have contacted a number of pilots to request this, and they are currently in various stages of the 5-step grieving process (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). You can avoid this emotional roller coaster by planning and executing your flights to be complete before sunset, unless you have approved night lighting.

You can't just duct tape a flashlight to the nose for night flight. The requirements for navigation lights are very specific to color, intensity and direction. If your aircraft is equipped with approved night lighting, and it was used for flight after sunset, you must put a note in the comments section of the OLC claim form explaining this.

We also have been advised of flight claims that show altitudes in the log well above the 18,000' MSL limit for Class-A airspace in the US. The IGC logger altitude is subject to a number of errors, which could total to several hundred feet. We are currently reviewing with the pilots a number of flights that appear to exceed even reasonable error budget.

Note that unless your flight reference altimeter has been properly calibrated for IFR flight, and is set to a current ATC altimeter setting, you will need to allow an extra buffer below 18,000' MSL indicated altitude to account for possible errors. If you have an encounter with an IFR aircraft with calibrated altitude references, the calibrated references and ATC logs will be used to determine your actual altitude in any subsequent investigation.

Again, if your flight log shows flight above 18,000 MSL, after correcting for field elevation at takeoff, you will need to provide an explanation in the comments section of the OLC claim form explaining this. The same requirement applies to entering special use airspace. This will immediately answer any questions that may concern other competitors, or anyone else reviewing your flight log in the future.

Finally, if you note a flight that appears to be questionable, do not speculate in public forums (like news://rec.avation.soaring). Contact the pilot privately if you can. If the flight is in the US, contact the SSA-OLC Committee by email at olcssaorg. Or use the complaint tab on the OLC Web header to initiate a partner check.

Doug Haluza

Posted: 9/1/2006 By: OLC Committee

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