Are Student Pilots Allowed to Fly Solo at Night?

It’s important for pilots to keep it legal in the dark.

[FLYING file photo]

Question: My instructor soloed me last week and said I would need another endorsement to fly solo at night. Another CFI told me that student pilots aren't allowed to fly solo at night. Which is correct?

Answer: Your instructor is correct. FAR 61.87 section (o) reads: “Limitations on student pilots operating an aircraft in solo flight at night: A student pilot may not operate an aircraft in solo flight at night unless that student pilot has received flight training at night on night flying procedures that include takeoffs, approaches, landings, and go-arounds at night at the airport where the solo flight will be conducted.”

There also needs to be navigation training at night in the vicinity of the airport where the solo flight will take place, and the instructor needs to endorse the student's logbook for the specific make and model aircraft to be flown for night solo flight. 

Night takeoffs and landings can be a little tricky because of the lack of visual cues you have in the daylight. In addition, make sure you know how to activate the runway lights. This is usually done by clicking the microphone transmit button a set number of times.

The night solo endorsement is good for 90 days, just like the daylight endorsement. If the takeoffs and landings are being done for currency at night, they need to be done to a full stop.

In regard to student pilots not being allowed to fly at night, provided they have the night solo endorsement, the student pilot is legal in the eyes of the FAA. The flight school, however, may have a policy against student pilot solo flight at night. It may even have a rule that student pilots need to be on the ground one hour before sunset. Check the renter's agreement before you commit.

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Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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