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Setting the Highest Standard in Flight Training

Basic Pilot Quiz 1 – Night Flying FARs

Consider the following information to complete this test:

  1. You will be conducting a solo flight VFR tonight from KPDK airport to log all of the night currency requirements you need to take a passenger up next week late at night.
  2. You have not done any flying in the last 90 days.
  3. At KPDK tonight, the official sunset is 8:24pm EDT, the end of official evening twilight is 8:51pm EDT. (EDT is Eastern Daylight-Savings Time)

A) At what time tonight can you begin counting your flight time as night time _________EDT?

B) Beginning at what time tonight do your take offs and landings count toward your night passenger carrying recency of experience ________EDT?

C) Beginning at what time tonight will your airplane be required to have nav (position) lights installed________EDT?

D) Beginning at what time tonight will you be required to turn on your nav (position) lights________EDT?

E) If you needed a Special VFR Clearance tonight, beginning at what time tonight would you need an Instrument Rating for the Special VFR Clearance_______EDT?

F) If you took off tonight from KPDK at 8:30pm EDT and then flew to another airport and made exactly 2 takeoffs and 3 full-stop landings at that airport between 10:00pm and 11:00pm and spent the night there, would you then have met the night passenger carrying recency of experience requirement______?

G) If you did your 3 takeoffs and landings full stop late at night in a Beech Baron (twin-engine piston prop), are you legally current to take passengers up at night in a Beech Bonanza (high performance single engine piston prop)? (The Baron could be considered a twin-engine version of the Bonanza with a few other small differences)

H) For you flight instructors – You are up flying with you student late at night in a Cessna 172 and the student pilot is working on his or her Private Pilot course. The student does 3 night takeoffs and 3 night full-stop landings. Can you count those takeoffs and landings for your own pilot currency to carry passengers at night?

The answers and explanations to these questions are shown below








A) 8:51pm EDT. FAR Part 1 defines night time as from the end of evening civil twilight until the beginning of morning civil twilight.

B) 9:24pm EDTFAR 61.57 (b) requires the 3 takeoffs and landings for night passenger carrying to be conducted from 1 hour after sunset until 1 hour before sunrise if you will be carrying your passengers during that same period.

C) 8:51pm EDT. FAR 91.205 (c) requires aircraft to be equipped with nav (position) lights when operated at night, which according to FAR part 1, begins at the end of evening civil twilight.

D) 8:24pm EDTFAR 91.209 (a) requires nav (position) lights to be turned on from sunset to sunrise. Interesting that you  don’t have to have to be equipped with nav (position) lights five minutes after sunset (according to FAR 91.205 c), but you do have your nav (position) lights lighted at that time.

E) 8:24pm EDT. FAR 91.157 (b) requires that you have an Instrument Rating to accept a Special VFR Clearance between sunset and sunrise.

F) NO. FAR 61.57 (b) requires 3 TAKEOFFS and 3 landings in the past 90 days during the period  one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise. The first of the 3 takeoffs in this example (when you departed PDK at 8:30pm EDT) was made at 6 minutes after sunset. It is a good idea to log your night takeoffs in addition to night landings.

G) NO. FAR 61.57 (b) for airplanes requires that the currency takeoffs and landings be performed in an airplane of the same category and CLASS. Multiengine land is a different class than single engine land. 

H) NO. FAR 61.57 (b) requires that the takeoffs and landings being used by a pilot for passenger carrying currency be counted only when the pilot is sole manipulator of the controls. You can log the experience as night PIC, but you can’t use it for the currency requirement in this case.

All of this may seem to be splitting hairs until you have an accident or get ramp checked by the FAA. Then it matters when the FAA cites you or an injured party sues you. Also, we have been looking at the legal minimums here. In real life, our piloting standards should be well above the legal minimums. I will be posting more quizzes in the future, so if you find this interesting and helpful, please check in regularly and let me know what you think. Thank you. Posted 05-12-2015. Steve Shaner


  • Excellent questionnaire teaching “Night” flight legalities…!

  • Mark Pedersen says:

    Perhaps the reason you only need nav light equipt for “night” (and not SS-SR) can be found in the Alaska exception. Up there you can fly during civil twilight without lights, allowing non-electrical aircraft to continue to operate after SS, for example. If 91.205 required lights SS-SR, that would negative the AK exception in 91.209. Outside Alaska it looks like a discrepancy. In any case, it’s very complicated!

    • Steve Shaner says:

      Hi Mark,
      The Alaska rule application is likely a factor that contributed to some of the inconsistencies between different portions of parts 1, 61 and 91 with regard to specific times for night and lighting operations. Thanks for your comment, Steve Shaner

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