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4 Answers

IFR at night on a commercial flight

Asked by: 4686 views ,
Commercial Pilot, FAA Regulations, Instrument Rating

Hello I just started a new job, flying a Gentleman in his own plane from place to place. He pays me for my time and the flights are day and night time. My question is : Do the night time flights need to be IFR? The ASA Instrument training video talks about when you need to fly under IFR and it said that all commercial flights at night must be IFR. I have a few pilots telling me otherwise. Please help Thanks for your time

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4 Answers

  1. John A Lindholm on Mar 24, 2011

    You are not flying a commercial flight…..  you are flying as a paid commercial pilot….. there is a big difference.  If you operate FAA Part 91, you do not need to file an IFR flight plan during night operations unless the weather requires it.  It makes sense to fly that way during VFR night conditions unless it would cause difficulty to comply.

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  2. Matthew Waugh on Mar 24, 2011

    You probably should educate yourself on the different between flights operated under Part 91 and Part 135. If it’s just you and the Gentleman who owns the plane flying around then you got no problems. But the minute somebody else gets on the the plane there is potential for people to be compensating each other for flights (and that can be a pretty broad definition) – even innocently.
    If that happens you’re piloting a flight that must be operated under a Part 135 certificate and I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that your Gentleman does not have one of those – and even if he did it doesn’t sound as if you’ve gone through the training program (you’d have noticed, a lot of classroom time trying to stay awake).
    They can’t take away the Gentleman’s Part 135 certificate he doesn’t have, they won’t take away his plane, but they sure as Hades can take away your certificate – and they will.
    There’s no guarantee that compensation isn’t taking place that you know nothing about, but if you can clearly show that you know the differences and you have done your best to ensure you knew the status of each passenger, then all you can do is throw yourself on the mercy of the FAA if it comes to that.
    How many people ACTUALLY get caught in this stuff – pretty much only the ones that crash – but you never know when an unfortunate ramp check leads to uncomfortable questions.

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  3. Kent Shook on Mar 24, 2011

    There are more ways to get caught than crashing or being ramp checked… If the “customer” (a potential third party in this case) decides they don’t like a policy of the “vendor” or feel like they’re getting ripped off or feel unsafe or … and they call the FAA… Bad news. (It’s happened to folks here who didn’t even know any compensation was happening, still got their ticket pulled for 90 days.)
    The scenario described by the OP, though, flying the owner of the plane, is a part 91 operation and I know of no regulation requiring commercial part 91 night operations to be flown IFR. However, many of the dangers of night flying can be mitigated by applying IFR procedures even to VFR flights – Obstacle departure procedures, for example, are a very good thing to follow at night even if you’re VFR. However, I agree with John that unless flying IFR causes some difficulty, there’s no reason not to do it. 
    Just curious, what ratings do you hold? Also, can you point to the part of the video you’re referring to that says night flights must be IFR, or even transcribe and post it? With some context, maybe we can answer your question better.

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  4. Earl Kessler on Mar 25, 2011

    I fly a PC12 under part 91 as a commercial pilot.  We always have a flight manifest listing the passenger(s) for each flight.  Almost always file IFR for safety, currency and priority handling by ATC.  We strive carefully to show that all flights are flown for owners and their friends/guests with no compensation activities that would force us to become part 135 operators.  This includes no charters, no payments between owners and parties flying and full documentation of every flight in the event of an audit.  Careful bookkeeping and documenting of every flight will keep you out of this grey area.  As far as flying under IFR either day or night, I suggest as a pro pilot, you do it as frequently as you can for your own proficiency.

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