This is an excerpt from a report made to the Aviation Safety Reporting System. The narrative is written by the pilot, rather than FAA or NTSB officials. To maintain anonymity, many details, such as aircraft model or airport, are often scrubbed from the reports.
While descending for a solo night training landing at Nut Tree Airport (KVCB) in Vacaville, California, I was unable to identify the runway or runway end identifier lights (REILs) for a planned base leg to final approach.
I failed to maintain situational awareness of my altitude and continued to descend to approximately 250 feet AGL before I identified the runway and realized my altitude.
I performed a go-around, re-entered the traffic pattern, and completed the landing.
The chain of events began with my inability to locate the runway while already descending, and my commitment to my base to final approach plan.
My fixation on locating the runway took my attention away from managing my altitude.
I created risk by starting a descent and not modifying my approach plan when I had not identified the runway.
I should not have descended below at least traffic pattern altitude (TPA), then identified the runway, and reentered the traffic pattern in a fashion appropriate for my position to complete the landing.
Primary Problem: Human Factors