Night flying a necessary component of readiness for ORANG
By Staff Sgt. Alexander Frank, 142nd Wing / Public Affairs
/ Published February 03, 2021
Portland, Ore.-- While many Portlanders have grown accustomed to the sights and sounds of military aircraft from the 142nd Wing out of Portland Air National Guard Base (PANG), hearing them at night can be a jarring experience. But rest assured night flying is perfectly normal, and part of a vital training requirement for pilots across the Air Force.
Night flying missions are accomplished on a regular basis to allow Citizen-Airmen pilots from PANG to fulfill annual training requirements, conduct essential nighttime maneuvers, and familiarize themselves with equipment vital to flying safely in the nights sky.
According to pilot Lt. Col. Mark Porcella, the Director of Operations for the 123rd Fighter Squadron, this training is done so pilots feel comfortable maneuvering their aircraft regardless of when they’re called into service.
Night flying comes with some unique challenges for pilots. Those challenges require a specific skill set that pilots must exercise regularly to maintain readiness in order to perform in nighttime conditions.
“The main difference of flying at night is the loss of visual references,” said Porcella. “When flying during the day, your subconscious does a lot of the work keeping your oriented with the horizon. At night those visual cues are significantly reduced or lost.”
Because pilots can’t rely as much on visual cues when flying at night, they need to be able to reference their instruments. Flying at night requires that pilots maintain focused attention and a continuous consciousness of position and orientation.
While it’s easy to conclude that pilots are the only beneficiaries of night flying, Airmen from the 142nd Maintenance Group are also a vital component to ensuring the reliability of the aircraft, and the tools pilots use to navigate.
According to Tech. Sgt. Bryson Colipano, an avionics technician with the 142nd Maintenance Group, aircraft prep for night flying missions present their own unique challenges and training opportunities.
“It makes us more well rounded maintainers,” said Colipano.
Night flying gives maintainers the opportunity to work in a varied environment, and in doing so, they become acclimated to these varied conditions, enhancing and increasing their level of readiness.
Aircraft maintainers need to be as ready as the pilots under diverse circumstances because there’s a considerable amount of time, effort, and skill that goes into getting these jets into the air safely.
Maintaining this readiness plays directly into one of the major missions of the 142nd Wing which is guarding the skies of the Pacific Northwest.
“We need to be able to safely operate and fight at night to fulfill our primary mission of combat operations,” said Porcella. “Further, our alert mission must be able to protect America 24 / 7. Nothing prohibits our enemies from attacking the homeland after dark.”