Can You Fly At Night With VFR?

The process of flying during the day and the night is pretty much the same, except for the fact that your visibility will be much poorer in the night. You won’t have the same visual abilities that you do when it is light outside, but actually flying the plane is exactly the same. 

The pilot of the plane will need to make slight adjustments for night flight, and perhaps take some extra caution. There are some different rules and regulations for nighttime flying that you will need to be aware of, and you might be wondering if you can fly at night with VFR.

We are going to answer all of your VRF related questions in this article to help give you a better understanding of what you can expect from flying at night. If you are training to become a pilot, this is information that can help you get ahead and be prepared.

What is VFR?

For those that didn’t already know, VFR stands for visual flight rules, and this refers to a specific set of rules that has been created by the FAA for flight in visual meteorological conditions.

Sometimes, these rules are used incorrectly, but learning the correct terminology is one of the best places to start. When it comes to flying a plane, VFR is a type of flight operation or flight plan that will be flown by the pilot. 

Interestingly, air traffic controllers are not always required to keep VFR aircraft separated from each other like they would do with normal air traffic. This is due to the fact that the responsibility for traffic separation lies with the pilot instead. This means that during these VFR operations, the pilot will need to be able to see in front of and around his aircraft when flying. 

This is why VFR rules will also include specifications for visibility requirements and a cloud clearance criteria, which are required for the pilot to be able to fly with visual reference to the ground and horizon.

These requirements will also vary depending on the type of airspace that the pilot is flying in, but they are in place to make sure that pilots that are flying VFR do not get into accidents with each other.

Can You Fly At Night With VFR?

Yes, you can fly at night with VFR in accordance to SERA requirements. Any aircraft that is leaving the vicinity of an aerodrome will have to maintain 2-way communication with ATC, and they will also need to file a flight plan.

Similarly, abbreviated flight plans filed in flight are still permitted. However, flying at night does come with more restricting weather minima.

There must be a minimum cloud ceiling of 1500 ft AMSL, and a flight visibility of 5 km, or 3 km if there is a helicopter flying outside controlled airspace. The pilot must maintain a sight of the surface when they are flying at 3000 ft AMSL or below, and there must be a minimum height of 1000 ft above the highest fixed obstacle within 8 km of the aircraft when landing.

What is IFR?

IFR stands for instrument flight rules, and this is a set of rules that will govern any aircraft that fly in instrument meteorological conditions. Generally, instrument flying is referring to flying in the clouds, and IMC is defined as weather that is below the minimums that are prescribed for flight under visual flight rules.

It is called an instrument flight rating as the pilot will navigate only by referencing the instruments that are available in the aircraft cockpit. Flying in the clouds will require the use of an IFR flight plan and an instrument rating. 

Flying by using instruments is much safer than it sounds when the pilot has received the necessary training that they need to be able to do so. This type of training will include learning how to use navigational aids like  VOR's, ADF and GPS, and how to fly approaches using an instrument landing system.

Instrument training will also involve a comprehensive study of weather systems and reports, icing conditions, and how the human body will respond to spatial disorientation.

Instrument flying will require the pilot to be more precise and professional than VFR flying, but it is a necessary step to becoming a professional pilot. Having an instrument rating will also mean that you will not be grounded as often due to bad weather.

Do You Need An Instrument Rating to Fly At Night?

A pilot will need an instrument rating to be able to fly at night and exercise visual flight rules. If the pilot wants to fly at night using IFR, then they will need to have an instrument rating.

One of the great things about this rating is that it does not expire.