Night flying comes with a unique set of challenges and is completely different from daytime flight in many ways. This is especially true for light single-engine aircraft. One of the differences comes in the form of night noises.
Sometimes at night an aircraft will make noises. These “night noises” occur normally during the day, but go unnoticed. At night, we are naturally more anxious and this heightened nervousness will cause us to notice things that we previously ignored.
In one of my early night flights, I remember being surprised to hear a rattling after landing. I was worried that something was wrong with the plane. I later realized that this sound was the control cables in the tail…..a normal sound that the plane always makes.
Night flying comes with extra risk, mostly because there are few good choices for where to make an emergency landing. This risk means that most pilots feel a healthy dose of nervousness which should lead to extra caution. There is also an evolutionary reason for anxiousness at night.
Understanding night noises requires a balance. When you hear a strange noise from the plane at night it may be a night noise that you can ignore. However, caution is the key to night flying, so don’t write off everything as a night noise. As you get more time flying at night you will get used to hearing some of these extra noises and learn what is normal.
If you aren’t sure, it is better to treat the noise as real and discontinue the flight early.