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6 Answers

PPL Night Flying Component

Asked by: 5425 views , , ,
Student Pilot

I am soon to start my PPL training and I have a question regarding safety of night VFR flying. It seems kind of dangerous doing VFR night flying especially cross country. 


Are my concerns justified?

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6 Answers

  1. Wes Beard on Sep 26, 2011

    Night VFR flying is inherently more difficult than day VFR flying.  Is it more dangerous… with the right precautions No.
    It is more difficult due to our physiological makeup.  Our eyes need time to adjust to the darkness and a sudden bright light can make us lose our “night vision” blinding us for a time but that rarely happens and I have never talked to anyone where that happened.  Our eyes at night need, for all practical aspects, more oxygen at night as our peripheral vision is first to go when we become hypoxic.  The physiological aspects can be minimized with the right precaution.
    It is more difficult to pick a suitable landing spot at night in the event the engine would fail not it is not possible.  There are common sense steps that we take to minimize damage to the airplane and other people / property if that happens.  One of the things I do, is to plan my flight from airport to airport at night.  I am lucky as there are lots of small airports where I can put it down in the most of the directions I go. 

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  2. Koehn on Sep 27, 2011

    You can reduce some of the risks associated with night flying by getting your instrument rating. Having your IR won’t by itself do much for pilot fatigue, off-field landing options, or optical hypoxia, but it can significantly reduce your risk due to pilot disorientation and VFR flight into IMC.

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  3. Micah on Sep 27, 2011

    Is night flying dangerous? Not exactly. Night flying is inherently more risky, since you can see less, in that some emergencies that may be mundane during daylight can require more attention and decision-making effort when experienced at night. I’m not sure there are any new risks related to flying at night, but some risks are increased. Even still, these risks can be mediated (flying with extra altitude at night increases horizontal gliding distance, changing your xc route, etc.) and night flying is not, in most cases, an inherently dangerous activity.
    Have you flown at night? Most people I know find it very enjoyable, even if it’s not a common use of the certificate. Also, since the private pilot certificate grants privileges to fly at night, you must train on night flying to be eligible to take the test. That doesn’t mean you have to engage in any activities (like night flying) that you don’t enjoy, but you can’t exempt yourself from the training because you don’t expect to use that privilege. 

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  4. JamesCFI on Sep 27, 2011

    Not risky, you have advantages and disadvantages to DAY or NIGHT.
     Personaly I perfer to fly at night, it’s cooler outside, not as bumpy, easier to see other aircraft and airport beacons, less weekend warriors, ATC doesnt seem AS busy.   Of course doing a off-field landing at night would be my major concern.
     Keep in mind nighttime is a prime time for a VFR pilot to acidently end up in IMC conditions (all it seems like from the air is there will be less and less lights on the ground).
     Personal Requirments for good night flying (aside of the obvious & legal stuff), GOOD instrument lights and overhead light, strobes, excellent landing and TAXI lights (I perfer a HID for landing and wide angle LED for taxi), good running plane (compression in upper 70s, good oil temp, no common hot cylinders etc), good rigging on the plane and a backup GPS and Nav/Com.

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  5. Bob Watson on Sep 29, 2011

    Some of my most memorable flights have been at night.
    — Watching the sunset and the moon rise
    — Flying over an undercast with mountains poking out and illuminated by a full moon (OK, that also required an instrument rating, but it’s still cool!)
    — taking off at night and punching through the overcast to see the above (that, too, requires an IR, obviously, but something to look forward to!)
    — getting away from the city lights and seeing ALL those stars
    — the overall peace and quiet
    all well worth the price of admission.
    But the thought of a forced landing at night is a bit unsettling. Like my instructor said, find a dark spot and head for it (lit spots usually mean obstacles). When you get close, turn on your landing light. If you don’t like what you see, turn it off. At that point it doesn’t matter either way and you don’t need to be distracted by looking at something that you don’t want to see.

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  6. Matthew Waugh on Oct 08, 2011

    Oh for heavens sake people – of COURSE night flying is more dangerous. It’s this kind of wandering around the core of the question when the answer is obvious that make non-aviation people think pilots are nuts. Look up the definition of danger in the dictionary.
    Flying exposes us to more danger than not flying, so already we’ve made decisions about the amount of danger we’re willing to accept, and of course we try to mitigate that danger as much as possible. Flying at night is more dangerous because, and this seems obvious, you cannot see as much.
    It’s good to explain the risks, how to mitigate them, why some people choose to fly at night etc. But the core question, is night flying more dangerous than day flying, the answer is a categorical yes. The questioners concerns ARE justified. People have done a great job of explaining how to mitigate the risk, what the tradeoffs are etc. But can we place, up front, the fact that night flying is more dangerous than day flying? Otherwise we lose credibility, and the rest of the explanation gets lost in the noise.

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