Avoid These TWO Mistakes When Planning Your Aeronautical Experience

By Ian Robinson | Flight Training Tips

Feb 18

Flight School

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 Plan 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 - Save Money
Make a checklist of all flight hour requirements for ALL RATINGS and CERTIFICATES you plan on attaining. Fill as many columns as you can in your logbook during the each flight hour (i.e. night, cross country, IFR). Requirements for future ratings can be completed early on.

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

A note of 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.

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. 

PRO TIP - Log IFR & Night Early
Get as much instrument time and night time as early on in your flight training as possible. 

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. 


Some flight schools FORCE their students wait until after their CFI checkride to begin instrument training. This will tack on approxametly 50 hours of unnecessary aircraft rental time for the IFR rating and CFII. Make sure you get the IFR rating in between private and commercial certificates. Your accountant will thank me later. 

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

Many students find it difficult to get night time at their flight school. The reason for this blog? I am constantly coaching students who are being bullied at flight schools. This is one of many conversations I have had recently. Notice the very last message, they experienced some spatial disorientation after finally getting some night IFR training. This is a good thing to experience with an instructor on board rather than when flying a load of paying passengers. 

.... a few weeks later

Advanced IFR Training

If you want to take your education to the next level, check out Recognition and Recovery training by FX Academy. They come highly recommended and who wouldn't want the opportunity to fly with Chuck Aaron, RedBull's first aerobatic helicopter pilot. 

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? 


About the Author

While I get land sickness if on the ground for extended periods of time, I have discovered my true passion when helping aviators grow and succeed. Feel free to connect with me. If we put our heads together, maybe we can discover something great. - Ian Robinson

  • Jeff Bobelak says:

    If your article was some at helicopters (I followed a link from a helicopter page) If like to know where you found an IMC capable training helicopter. Otherwise, great article.

    • Ian Robinson says:

      Hi Jeff,

      Yes this article is geared toward both rotor and fixed wing. It states to get as much “simulated” IFR time at night as possible. Now that I think about it, it wouldn’t hurt a helicopter pilot to get some IFR time in a fixed wing as well prior to their checkride just to knock out the butterflies. Thanks for the observation!

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