Get Night Proficient

As fall and winter starts to set in and the days grow shorter, it is important to make sure that your night flying skills are up to snuff. Flying can take a lot more time than you may initially plan for. With less daylight to play with you are more likely to find yourself left with the choice of either flying in the dark or spending the night someplace you weren't planning to stay.

The FAA has recognized that night flying is different enough that it warrants additional currency requirements to carry passengers. FAR 61.57(b) requires three takeoffs and landings to a full stop at night within the past 90 days of flight in the same category, class and type of aircraft. But we all know there is a big difference between meeting legal currency requirements and being proficient, so don't leave your passenger waiting on the ground for however long it takes you to satisfy the legal mandates. That kind of last minute solution is neither safe nor smart.

If you haven't flown at night for a while, schedule a couple of hours with your flight instructor. Don't just go around the patch and do a few landings. Go out and practice flying under the hood. Night flying, particularly in rural areas, is not unlike IFR flying. Situational awareness and navigation are both much more challenging and require frequent practice for proficiency. The next time you find yourself in a situation where you would need to fly in the dark, make the smart choice and get proficient. Getting your night flying skills up to speed may require a second or even third flight with your instructor.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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