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Special VFR at Night

Posted by on October 27, 2008 2 Comments Category : Flight Instructor Blog Tags : ,

Here’s the question Paul just sent me:

Special VFR at night requires, amongst other things, that the pilot be IFR-rated. But it strikes me that there is no requirement for the pilot to be IFR-current – is that true? Seems dangerous to me.

Well, Paul (great name by the way).  I agree with you that it would be VERY dangerous for any pilot who is not IFR current to operate under Special VFR at night.  Fortunatetly, I believe that the regulations do require that recent instrument flight experience be met as per 61.57.   Let’s look at the two requirements for Special VFR at night.

1) Pilot

According to 14 CFR 91.157 Special VFR operations at night (in airplanes) requires that “The person being granted the ATC clearance meets the applicable requirements for instrument flight under part 61 of this chapter.”

So let’s look at the instrument flight requirements under part 61 which, in summary says that in order to act as PIC of an aircraft on an instrument flight plan you must:

a) Hold an appropriate instrument rating on your pilot certificate and

b) Meet the recent instrument experience requirements of 61.57(c) (6 approaches, intercepting and tracking)

2) Airplane

The aircraft must be equipped for instrument flight as required by 91.205(d)


Again, this is just my interpretation, but I do think that 91.157 is requiring that a pilot who receives an ATC clearance for Special VFR at night be fully IFR rated, equipped and current.  The reason being of course is that there is a greater chance at night of a Special VFR clearance turning into a full blown IFR flight plan.  If the FAA did not require the pilot to be instrument current, than they would have no provision for enforcement action when a pilot illegally operated on a IFR flight plan.

I hope this helps answer your question.  Thanks again for asking and always…

Fly Safe!


  1. paul on Oct 28, 2008


    Thanks for answering my question. I suppose I should have been less lazy and reached for my own copy of the FARs; I was remembering the pilot requirement as being “rated” rather than meeting recent experience requirements.

    Yeah, and I agree about the name 🙂


  2. Sompol Chompradist (Micky from Thailand) on Mar 09, 2011

    Hello sir, I work for Thai DCA (Inspector) I would like to ask something about VFR at night .
    In yr country have flying VFR at night for commercial ? weight not more than 5700 Kg Passenger not exceed 19 (Aircraft type Dornier 228 for my country)
    Because I approved for operating VFR at night to operator but my boss would like to reconsider about that due to not suitable.
    Pls.reply me hurry up.
    thank you in advance

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