Night School

Flight School should be one of the most enjoyable phases of your aviation career. You’d think that you can just show up and have a clear outline of the next two years handed to you on a silver platter. Many students graduate with a serious logbook deficiency that could cost them additional THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.

Take your training into your own hands

FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations) part 61 clearly outlines the minimums so grab a cup of coffee and DIG IN. I’ll help you get started with some links but you need to comb through these regulations so you have a full understanding of the current requirements. 

Aeronautical Experience Requirements

PRO TIP - Planning saves MONEY

Make a CHECKLIST for all flight hour requirements for ALL CERTIFICATES and RATINGS that you plan on attaining. As you schedule flights, try to complete as many logbook columns during the same flight hour as possible (i.e. night, cross country, and simulated IFR).

MISTAKE 1: Not enough night experience

Beyond flight school, night time flying opportunities drastically diminish. If you are a flight instructor, get as much night time as you can. This not only gives you more opportunities down the road, it helps your students as well.

If you follow the above PRO TIP, you’ll notice that the ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) Certificate requires 100 hours of NIGHT experience. You could easily knock out your entire instrument rating AT NIGHT, some cross country AT NIGHT, and some solo time AT NIGHT. By the time you are ready for your ATP check ride, you won’t have to blow $8,000-$24,000 on a rental aircraft and burn holes in the sky to build 80 hours of night time. Ignore this tip and your flight school will love you because you will be PAYING for the same flight time TWICE.

In addition to this, most desirable jobs require lots of night experience. Take a look at the following medevac job post. They require 500 hours of night and 200 hours of IFR. If you graduate flight school with the minimums, work as a CFI only in the day time, and then move onto flying helicopter tours in the Grand Canyon for a decade, you could possibly accumulate 10,000 hours of flight time but NOT qualify for an EMS job due to lack of night experience.

MISTAKE 2: Flying simulated IFR during the day

An added bonus of flying under the hood at night is that you will get used to disorientation while you have an instructor on board. It is IMPOSSIBLE to avoid using your peripheral vision during the day time while under the hood. The first time you get into the clouds at night will be a very scary situation if you simulate your entire rating during the day. 

SAFETY CAUTION

Venturing out over uncontested areas at night could be dangerous. Read this article before attempting this and analyze instructor comfortability. There is no logbook column that can accurately depict this type of experience.

Also, reference the above job requirements. If you need extra cross country time, try doing it under the hood and at night. When it comes time to do some IFR flying, take the necessary steps to maximize your IFR experience because it is the one of the best tools in your bag. 

IFR is a free rating

If you are training all the way to become a commercial pilot, then the IFR rating is essentially free depending on which aircraft you train in. Sure, you will have an additional check ride and some more ground school to attend but your logbook hours will be the same when you take your commercial checkride with or without the instrument training. 

The IFR training will make you a better pilot and in turn, help you with your commercial checkride. Frankly, I don’t even understand why the rating is optional. Who wouldn’t want the OPTION to be able to SURVIVE if you inadvertently fly into instrument conditions or deteriorating weather?

Reality Check

A conversation that will save lives

Many students find it difficult to schedule night time at their flight school. The reason for this blog? I am constantly coaching students who are being bullied at flight schools. Notice the very last message. The student experienced spatial disorientation during some night IFR training. This experience is usually fatal when experienced unexpectedly during commercial operations. When pilots are exposed to difficult conditions during training – a protected environment, their odds of survival dramatically increase when they encounter them in the “real world.” 

This is a screenshot from a text conversation that I had with a student who had no idea the importance of night time. (please excuse autocrect or mobile typo-s)

A few weeks after I pushed for the student to demand night experience, I received the following message:

Care to share?

Drop a comment below. Tell us your experience with flight training. How much night time did you get during primary training? How did your experience during IFR training differ between night and day? 

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