Night illumination . . .


New Member
As a new pilot coming from an outdoorsy background, the obvious answer to the lighting requirements for night flight seemed to be a headlamp. With the new dual bulb LED/Halogen lamps, it's easy to throw on over or under my headset, I have a low LED setting for in the cockpit work and a brighter halogen for pre- and postflight, and my hands are free once it's on. A few of the pilots I've talked to have said it was a bad idea but, when pressed, couldn't give me a reason that I should use a standard flashlight other than "nobody uses headlamps." My instructor was game and thought it was a good idea, but what about the rest of you? What do you use at night? Any reason that I shouldn't use the headlamp?

I've been using a Black Diamond Gemini. Takes a couple of AA's, lasts hundreds of hours on the LEDs and about 25 or 30 on the Halogen, is lightweight, compact, and pretty cheap at 35 or 40 bucks. When it's on your head, you hardly know it's there but it works great for in-camp or in-cockpit stuff. Not recommended for night telemark skiing or mountain biking, however . . . Not quite bright enough to see those roots and trees rushing toward you! I've even stuck a custom cut piece of colored transparency sheeting over the lens with double sided tape to act as a filter when needed. Works great for me, I think!
The only thing I can think of is that you might blind your passengers when you look at them. I have seen some light attachments for headsets, so someone must be using headlamps of some kind. I just keep a red LED around my neck on a lanyard, and when I need to read something I just pick it up.

Seems to me that whatever works for you is okay.

Nobody uses headlamps?? Well, I sure do. Nothing like scrambling for a flashlight during an approach only to have to take your hands off of something important (like the throttles or yoke) to mess with it. I use a Pelican L1 LED light on my headset. Real small (maybe 3" long), that attaches to the right side of my headset, and you can swivel it around and whatever. It's perfect for IFR...if you don't mind paying upwards of $40 for it.
All this gee-whiz newfangled technical stuff is makin me feel like I need groundschool again. Geez! In my day we used torchlight. J/K.
I got a shoelace contraption that I wear around my neck... I've got three flashlights hanging from it: a mag light, and two small red LED lights.

It really works well, I have all the light I need and even if the bulb goes I can still use another light (and it has many times). I can also drop the light and not have to worry about where I'll put it and how I'll find it again.

And yeah, I look like a total dork, but that's true even without the shoelace thing on
Plenty of pilots use headlamps of varying designs, from the camping style you're talking about to headset-dome-mounted ones to military mic boom "lip lights". I have a Photon Micro-Light III velcroed to one of the domes on my headset and it works beautifully.
So, from what I gather so far, everyone has something that works for them and there aren't any reasons not to use my headlamp. (Except for the blinding your passengers thing. When you've spent a lot of time with a headlamp on, you just get used to covering the light when you look at someone . . . common illumination courtesy, you know!
) Until I find something better, I'll stick with the trusty Gemini then. And, just for the sake of mentioning it, I do carry a spare mini-MagLite in my flight bag just in case I need it. Has nothing to do with the main light being a headlamp, I just happen to take comfort in redundency when I'm in the dark.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Thanks for all of your tips and the great willingness to share opinions and experiences. JCers rock!

Now, if you see a guy preflighting with a glowing orb on his forehead, come say hi!
I just always used the interior lights from the aircraft. We had newer Pipers that had a blueish overhead dome light, so I would use that. Now, I use the spotlight over my head, which can get really bright. Just simple white light. Doesn't do much damage to night vision in my opinion. As long as you aren't looking straight into a flashlight, I think you should be ok.

BTW, an aside: At our company (I believe it is a 121 regulation) you must have a 2-D cell (or more) flashlight as part of your required equipment to be carried in your flight kit.