Do pilots see anything during a night flight?


On clear nights going east somewhere around Oklahoma City and Tulsa I have seen the lights of Dallas (180 miles) and Houston (420 miles) in one direction and Kansas City (300 miles) and St. Louis (460 miles) in the other direction, all at the same time.

No matter how many times I saw that, it always blew me away that I could see that much of the U.S. at once.


Passing over NYC while flying south from Boston at night, I’ve seen Philly, Baltimore, Washington, and Richmond.

Flying north to Boston while over NYC, I’ve seen the aurora borealis. Only once, as it’s a rare condition to see them that far south, and they weren’t visible on the ground. But they were visible at jet altitude. And, for whatever reason buried in my ancestral amygdala, they gave me the creeps.


Speaking of things that gave me the creeps in jet cockpits at night was when we got St. Elmo’s Fire dancing all over the windshield. Sometimes it would come into the cockpit and dance on the glare shield. Despite being a smart guy with an aerospace engineering degree, St. Elmo’s Fire always creeped me out. Something in my unconscious gets weirded out at the sight of dancing electricity at night.


Then, there’s the infamous and elusive green flash that is visible at the exact instant the sun sets below the horizon. I know, this isn’t at night, but it’s the beginning of night, so bear with me.

I’ve only seen it twice while on the ground, both times on Kauai, in Hawaii. It cannot be seen without super clear skies and a razor sharp horizon without the slightest hint of haze, which is rare on the ground. But in the air, it’s a much more common sight.

In the air, I missed it the first two or three times when the other pilot said he saw it because the event is ridiculously named. I was looking for some large event, worthy of the term flash.

But finally, a more experienced jet jockey explained to me that it’s really just a green blip when the last tiny dot of the sun flashes green for less than a second. So, I guess it can technically be called a green flash, but don’t be fooled by the name.

So, those are some of the things we see at night.

This information was taken from Quora. Click here to view the original post.

Did you like the answer provided? What is the most beautiful thing you've seen while on a plane? Tell us in the comments below!

#Society #Nature #Quora


What are your thoughts on this subject?
dewey michael
Worked in fairbanks for 6 months, northern lights are beautiful
Jun 6, 2021 5:14PM
They all sounded exciting to see! Very interesting!
Sep 25, 2019 5:23PM
Charli Robinson
The Northern Lights are nothing less than spectacular!!
Aug 28, 2019 5:31AM
Alberto Antonio Ortega Cruz
Thank for the information
Aug 5, 2019 5:15PM
Yogi Arya
The I spy , btwn the floating clouds & the sky is ethereal , a spectacle , enthralling imagination.
Jul 19, 2019 12:25AM
Yevette Allen
All I can say is WOW!!!!
Jul 12, 2019 4:45PM
Tina Dawson
Flying near Singapore once, ST Elmo’s Fire danced on the windscreen of the aircraft. It is still one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. I wasn’t flying but was learning to fly in the days before 9/11 when you could go into cockpits. Seeing lightning all around from the monsoon was more freaky to me. I loved seeing full circle rainbows on clouds both day and night caused by the sun and full moon. The South West of Western Australia isn’t heavily populated. Seeing a pool of blackness above and below was amazing with just pinpricks of light on the ground and in the sky... the sky had more light ... made you feel you were in space.
Jun 21, 2019 8:30PM
Tina Dawson
Sue Lester, they find their way with prior planing then following the instruments. Big planes, everything is set into the autopilot, but pilots learn to fly in the cloud manually too. They follow the Directional Gyro to ensure they are going the right direction; the altimeter shows height... depending where you’re flying, you’ll stay at the height you’re told, or the height you’ve submitted in you’re flight plan; the artificial horizon shows the position of your wings in relation to the horizon. So they watch that to ensure they aren’t turning when they’re supposed to be straight and level. They watch their speed to ensure they aren’t slowing down and heading for a wing stall. There are 6 flight instruments that pilots keep scanning in cloud to help them find their way. By time they are let loose with you in the back, they have done it so much that it’s as normal as riding a bike.
Jun 21, 2019 8:22PM
The most beautiful thing I've seen from an airplane was on a flight. From Sacramento to Boise. It was during the winter and there was a flat layer of clouds which extended out of sight in any direction I looked.we came up through the clouds into a bright, sunlit sky. I looked down to see the top of the cloud layer and there, below us was a rainbow. With no ground to interrupt it, the rainbow was a complete circle instead of just an arc. As I gazed in wonder at it, I noticed that in the dead center of it was the shadow of our airplane. The rainbow appeared to be keeping pace with the shadow, which I could see was moving quickly across the cloud. What a marvelous vision!
Apr 17, 2019 5:24PM
Barry Chapman
Hi bud
Apr 2, 2019 4:29PM
Sue Lester
Thanks for that. But I would like to know how pilots find there way through thick cloud, when I look out the window I can’t see anything ?
Mar 28, 2019 4:44AM
Betty Whelan
I enjoyed that coming back from Sydney I saw some beautiful skys
Feb 7, 2019 6:29PM
Marie Secrest
I was flying home to california.early morning flight! It seemed to. Me that I was following the sunrise. I worked night shift at the hospital so I had seen many gorgeous sunrises. But this was different, this was God's magic just for me🎆🎇🐦
Nov 29, 2018 6:25PM
Betty Apple
As an old Marine Jet Fighter Pilot, I discovered that there is day flying and there is night flying....and there is no similarity. Enjoyed your version of the night type.
Nov 26, 2018 7:49PM
Joyce Jenkins Beaver
Learned a lot! Thank you!
Nov 26, 2018 6:10PM

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