should an instrument rating be required for night flying?

MikeD

Administrator
Staff member
Carried over from another topic; let's debate the question a UND student came up with in the late 1980s, that eventually went so far as to become a FAA NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking)


[ QUOTE ]
Just found a paragraph in "FARs Explained", Kent S. Jackson (attorney specializing in Aviation).

Excerpt from the breakdown and case examples of FAR 61.51.

[ QUOTE ]
Actual instrument conditions may occur during a flight on a moonless night over the ocean with no discernible horizon, if use of the instruments is necessary to maintain adequate control over the aircraft. The determination of whether such a flight could be logged under part 61.51 is subjective and based in part on the sound judgment of the pilot. The log should include the reasons for determining the flight was under actual instrument conditions in the even the entry is challenged.

[/ QUOTE ]

I also found a bunch of other references to this paragraph that stipulate that there can be zero surface lights anywhere in the pilots field of view, along with no horizon, and no sky references either. Translation you need to be pretty darn far off shore or deep into the desert out of view of all lights and under overcast with no ambient light to produce a horizon. I cant thing of a single time when I personally met all of these requirements without actually being in the clouds. Its possible, but if a person has a bunch of instrument hours logged this way I would raise the BS flag.

[/ QUOTE ]

My point exactly. IMO, there's very few situations where this would qualify, ie the over the ocean or REAL middle of nowhere desert, I wouldn't imagine there'd be many hours that'd qualify.

Obviously, the "all night time as actual" is BS, we all agree to that.

Now, the PPL (non-instrument) question portion that I knew we'd get into: Whether he shoulda been there or not.....

On a clear night, a PPL is obviously legal to fly. How can he know a "dark" night with no lights/horizon? What if he wants to fly from PRC to IGM, or PHX to ABQ? Is it not legal? I believe it is.

But wait a minute....there's all of a sudden no horizon in the middle of nowhere (first time flying the route), is he still legal? Should he turn around? Is it actual? Can it be logged?

Like the UND student in the late 1980s asked in his research paper....should an instrument rating be REQUIRED for night flying, if not for this one occurrance? Remember, this could happen in any number of places in CA, NV, AZ, NM, etc to varying degrees

Let the debate begin..........
 

Ryan110175

Well-Known Member
I remember flying along the coast of Lake Erie at night when I first had my Private. Looking across Lake Eries it was total blackness and wondered if an intrument should be required at night crossing large bodies of water.
 

C150J

Well-Known Member
I think there should be a "night sign-off," as Canada has (I think?). In addition to horizon issues, I have been flying at night many times (I always file at night) and popped into layers that I couldn't see.

As with spin training, the more instruction, the better.
J.
 

mtsu_av8er

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
I think there should be a "night sign-off," . . .

[/ QUOTE ]

This sounds like a more reasonable solution, IMHO.

I think that the accident database has enough data to conclude that night VFR flight by non-instrument rated pilots is significantly more hazardous that day VFR. However, I'm not sure that the hazard level is increased enough to require an instrument rating.

So, the solution may very well be a speacial endorsment for night VFR flight, requiring a certain amount of training before a non-instrument rated pilot can venture off into the wild dark yonder alone.

Will this piss alot of non-instrument rated pilots off? I'm sure. But it wouldn't be a bad idea.
 

aloft

New Member
This reminds me of a flight I made from San Diego to San Luis Obispo on a moonless night a couple years ago, just after I'd gotten my private ticket--my first solo night XC, in fact. Parts of the flight along the coastline between Santa Monica and Santa Barbara were pretty much solely by reference to instruments. What I remember most from that flight: a) having to stay on top of an airplane that kept wanting to roll off to one side during straight and level flight--with my instruments being the only visual indication thereof; b) the mild alarm of having to figure out an alternate-alternate after finding my destination and original alternate fogged in earlier than forecast--and discovering that Flightwatch really isn't available after 10 pm; and c) the difficulty of ID'ing the terrain elevations between me and my new destination off a sectional chart, while tending to that uncommanded rolling tendency. Having since learned about IFR enroute charts, MEAs, MORAs and the like, I can appreciate how much simpler and safer that flight would have been had it been conducted under IFR. I don't think the flight was unsafe due to my not being instrument rated, but it definitely gave me a healthy respect for the pitfalls of night cross-country flight--particularly over routes I haven't flown in daylight. As I prepare for my instrument training, I've taken to planning XC flights as if they were to be flown under IFR and make use of MEAs, etc, for the extra margin of safety they provide.

That said, do I think an instrument rating shuold be required for night flight? No. Do I think VFR-only pilots should have "personal minimums" for night flights regarding visibility, moonlight, etc? Absolutely. CFIs should definitely be teaching this as part of the night XC flight(s) for primary students.
 

JEP

Malko In Charge
Staff member
Requierd...no.
Beneficial...Yes
CFI signoff...yes (is there already a req. for this?)

I have yet to fly much at night, but when my IFR training is complete (stg3 check this week) I will definetly feel more comfortable. There are plenty of lights around here (MSP) but when you get over some of the larger lakes it can be trouble.
 

MidlifeFlyer

Well-Known Member
It's a political question.

I won't intentionally fly in conditions I can't handle without additional experience or training. Neither will you. So the answer to the question comes down to:

Do you feel it is necessary to regulate =other= people's conduct to this degree?

In addition to the night rating, how about

o No over water flights without a special over water endorsement
o No mountain flights without a special mountain endorsement
o No crosswinds above 10 knots without a special crosswind endorsement
o No flight in weather forecast as MVFR without a special endorsement.
o No (choose you personal pet peeve) without a special rating or endorsement.

(BTW, I'd bet that there have been far more accidents involving theses than ones that were due to pure "night" issues)
 

Tim06

New Member
It almost is IMC when you fly from Martha's Vineyard to CT or NY at night. Between not having any horizon around you, and the fact that the "ocean fog" is there.....man o man you gotta love doing that!
 

mtsu_av8er

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
CFI signoff...yes (is there already a req. for this?)


[/ QUOTE ]

Nope! Once you complete the disgusting (3) hours of night flight training (which is almost always done dual, on one cross country trip), you're completely legal to fly around at night.

I did almost half of my private flight training at night, and I actually had a night solo endorsment (did anyone eolse have one? I have yet to meet anyone who has, besides students at my old FBO).

Most people, once they have their private, have little experience in the airplane at night, and usually NONE in the airplane in the dark alone.
 

mtsu_av8er

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
It's a political question.


[/ QUOTE ]

Not really...it's something that needs to be talked about. I don't think that anyone in this forum has anything to gain from this discussion.

[ QUOTE ]

I won't intentionally fly in conditions I can't handle without additional experience or training. Neither will you.


[/ QUOTE ]

But many people will. The proof lies in the fact that people kill themselves each and every week after getting into situations that they really should not be in!!

[ QUOTE ]

So the answer to the question comes down to:

Do you feel it is necessary to regulate =other= people's conduct to this degree?


[/ QUOTE ]

That's an unfair question, but I will refer to your last statement (see above). I would never depart without enough fuel to reach my destination. Neither would you. So, does the FAA really have to regulate minimum fuel requirements?

Heck yes, they do, because even with the regulations, idiots are idiots. Imagine if we didn't have them....


[ QUOTE ]

In addition to the night rating, how about

o No over water flights without a special over water endorsement
o No mountain flights without a special mountain endorsement
o No crosswinds above 10 knots without a special crosswind endorsement
o No flight in weather forecast as MVFR without a special endorsement.
o No (choose you personal pet peeve) without a special rating or endorsement.

(BTW, I'd bet that there have been far more accidents involving theses than ones that were due to pure "night" issues)

[/ QUOTE ]

No accident is "pure", as you call it. If a pilot gets spatial disorientation in the clouds, and then crashed into the mountains, the mountains have nothing to do with the accident. The accident was caused by spatial D.

If a pilot is flying in high terrain and hits a mountain, the mountain didn't cause the accident...it was the pilot's failure to remain clear of terrain. His fault (assuming he didn't have a power failure, etc.).

Crosswind limitations? In order to recieve a PPL, you have receive training (ground and flight) in crosswind procedures. You also have to demonstrate competency in it.

Really, none of those examples are the same. The MVFR one almost worked, but that's regulated too. That's why the FAA says when you can and can't do it.
 

C150J

Well-Known Member
MTSU -

I had a night sign-off, mostly due to the fact that I soloed with about 100 hours when I was sixteen (all from a non-family CFI - just qualifying that because one of our local pilots just got ripped apart for logging dual received with his CFI-dad starting at age 10, as it was obvious that he REALLY had about half the experience his logbook stated).


J.
 

JEP

Malko In Charge
Staff member
Nope, the fbo I trained at would not allow student pilot solo at night. It had to all be dual. Some insurance deal.
 

mtsu_av8er

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
Nope, the fbo I trained at would not allow student pilot solo at night. It had to all be dual. Some insurance deal.

[/ QUOTE ]

I was in shock when I learned that I was an exception!!!
 

EatSleepFly

Well-Known Member
I begged for a night solo endorsement when I was a private student. I finally talked my instructor into giving it to me, and the flight school nixed it. Bah.


Although now that I think about it, I wouldn't really be too comfortable giving a student a night solo endorsement. Giving them day solos is stress enough!
 

tonyw

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
It almost is IMC when you fly from Martha's Vineyard to CT or NY at night. Between not having any horizon around you, and the fact that the "ocean fog" is there.....man o man you gotta love doing that!


[/ QUOTE ]

And for a perfect example of that, we need look no further than JFK Jr. And he was working on his instrument rating.
 

JAM

New Member
mtsu,

My first solo was at night! On my 16th birthday no less. Took me a while to deflate afterwards. Pumped!
 

mtsu_av8er

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
mtsu,

My first solo was at night! On my 16th birthday no less. Took me a while to deflate afterwards. Pumped!

[/ QUOTE ]

That's awesome!!! Alot of people are weird about solo flight at night by student pilots, but I'm all for it!!!
 

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
Knowing what I know now, if Kristie had a private pilots license, I probably wouldn't let her fly cross country at night without a instrument rating. Buzzing around the pattern or checking out the city lights is cool, but taking off from KSDL to KIGM across the desert on a VFR flight plan with very little instrument experience is absolutely nuts in my opinion.

I flew back from KLAS to KPRC once and lost my lights on a moonless night across the high desert. Let me tell you, if I didn't have my instruments, a flashlight and a little instrument experience, it'd have been a sticky situation.

Maybe, and just maybe, perhaps increasing the amount of required instrument training and perhaps requiring that VFR-only flights more than 50 nm or so from the departing airport be in an instrument-qualified aircraft.

Just brainstorming!
 
Top