Part II — The Ground and Air Instruction Syllabus — Exercise 25 — Night Flying


Organizing the Training

Instructors who do training for the night rating know that their students find it to be a very enjoyable way to enhance their skill and qualifications. Although some polishing may be needed, the students already know how to do everything in daylight, such as taxi, take-off, fly cross-country, and land. But they have to learn to do these things in a new environment — darkness, and in the process what they learn will benefit all of their flying.

Training for the night rating consists of a certain amount of instrument flying combined with dual and solo night flying. The exact requirements are set out in the CARs. The challenge for the instructor is to organize and conduct the training in a manner that respects the principles of good instruction, such as building from simple to complex.

Provided that the licensing requirements are met, instructors have considerable latitude in judging how best to proceed with the training for the night rating. Given the diversity in students and local conditions, this flexibility is needed. Whatever approach is taken, try to organize the training to enrich the experience for your students, taking into account what they are likely to encounter once they have a night rating. For example, breaking a two-hour training session into two trips on different nights might give the student more experience on different runways and in different weather conditions. Be on guard for fatigue; it is likely that the student will already have spent a day at work, and maybe the instructor, too.

Ground Training

Although ground training is not a requirement for the night rating, many of the items listed under "Essential Background Knowledge" in the flight exercises can be presented in a general ground training session for night flying before flying begins. Items to be included:

(1)  Review the training program. Giving an overview of the training for the night rating will not only let the student know what to expect, but what you will expect of the student.

(2)  Explain the airport layout and lighting. Even if the student knows the airport, a review of the layout will be helpful. An understanding of various lighting systems, including taxiway, runway edge, threshold, approach, obstruction, aerodrome beacon, wind direction indicator, and approach slope indicator, is an important requirement.

(3)  Review the aircraft electrical system. The student will already know something of the electrical system, but a review will set the stage for understanding how things can fail and what can be done in the event of a malfunction.

(4)  Explain the aircraft lighting. Success in night flying requires a good working knowledge of the aircraft lighting. That means knowing what lighting is available, and how and when to use it.

(5)  Explain human factors as they apply to night flying. Subjects to talk about include night vision, kinesthetic illusions, visual illusions, autokinesis, black holes, pitch-up and pitchdown illusions, fatigue, and, if the training is conducted in winter, cold weather operations. Consult The Pilot's Guide to Medical Human Factors, Human Factors for Aviation — Basic Handbook, and Human Factors for AviationInstructor's Guide for some good material on these and other topics.

Instrument Flying

A certain amount of instrument flying is needed for the night rating, because there are some night situations in which instruments are almost the only attitude reference available. Private pilot training now requires five hours of dual instrument flying, so this much can be counted on, unless the candidate completed private pilot training many years ago. Many instructors like to do at least some of this instrument flying at night, although it will not be counted as part of the five hours dual night flight time needed for the rating. In addition, if the equipment is available, it is recommended that they learn more about radio aids to navigation than is required for the Private Pilot Licence. This might include the ability to use VOR, ADF or GPS to determine a position and to home to the facility or waypoint.

Recommending for the Night Rating

There is no flight test required for the night rating, but the instructor is expected to know when the student is competent to exercise the privileges of the rating, which is more than simply acquiring the necessary dual and solo flight time. The student should be able to meet, for those exercises covered in night flying, the same standard set out in the Flight Test Standards, Private and Commercial Pilot Licences — Aeroplane (TP 2655E).

Flight Exercises

Pre-flight Inspection


The student will learn how to conduct a thorough pre-flight inspection at night.


A thorough pre-flight inspection is always important but it is made more difficult by darkness. Close attention must be given to be sure nothing is missed. There is also more to be checked, such as aircraft lighting.

Essential Background Knowledge

(1)  Review the pre-flight inspection as it is done during the day.

(2)  Review the aircraft electrical system.

(3)  Review the action to be taken if an unsatisfactory item is located during the inspection.

(4)  Explain operation and inspection of aircraft lighting:

  1. Cockpit;
  2. Landing;
  3. Taxi;
  4. Beacon;
  5. Strobe;
  6. Navigation.

(5)  Explain the importance of carrying spare fuses of the right type.

(6)  Explain the need for a serviceable flashlight.

(7)  Explain the need for extra caution when checking for tow bars, chocks, control locks, and pitot covers.

Advice to Instructors

(1)  The initial demonstration of a pre-flight inspection should be done during the day or in a lighted hangar.

(2)  Point out that more caution and attention to detail is needed because darkness can obscure items that would be obvious in daylight.

(3)  Emphasize the importance of having a properly functioning electrical system at night.

Instruction and Student Practice

Demonstrate how to conduct a pre-flight inspection at night.

Engine Start and Run-up


The student will learn how to start the aircraft and conduct a run-up at night.


The main difference in starting an engine and conducting a run-up at night is in the need to use aircraft lighting correctly and to bring extra caution to the procedures because of darkness.

Essential Background Knowledge

(1)  Review the engine start and run-up procedures.

(2)  Review the emergencies which may be encountered during the engine start.

(3)  Review the passenger safety briefing.

(4)  Explain:

  1. Use of cockpit lighting;
  2. Use of flashlight;
  3. Importance and use of a written check list;
  4. Importance of monitoring generator/alternator output.

Advice to Instructors

(1)  Ensure that the student can locate all critical switches by touch.

(2)  Ensure that the student does a thorough look-out for anyone nearby before starting. Turning on the beacon and navigation lights and, if necessary, a "clear" call will warn others that the aircraft is about to be started.

(3)  Start and run-up may take more time at night and the student may be nervous so take care not to rush the student.

(4)  Ensure that brakes are securely applied. It is difficult to detect whether the aircraft is creeping ahead at night.

(5)  Emphasize caution in positioning the aircraft for the run-up as such details as ice, people, and other aircraft are difficult to see at night.

Instruction and Student Practice

(1)  Demonstrate how to start the aircraft at night.

(2)  Demonstrate how to conduct a run-up at night.



The student will learn how to taxi correctly at night.


Darkness, and the absence of normal visual cues, requires that extra attention be given when taxiing at night.

Essential Background Knowledge

(1)  Review taxiing procedures, including instrument checks while turning and placement of flight controls during strong wind conditions.

(2)  Review how to determine which runway is active.

(3)  Explain airport lighting:

  1. Aerodrome beacon;
  2. Taxiway;
  3. Unserviceable area markings;
  4. Approach;
  5. Runway;
  6. Wind direction indicator;
  7. Use of taxi lines;
  8. Runway exit markings;
  9. Retroreflective markers.

(4)  Explain how to judge taxi speed at night.

(5)  Explain the correct operation of the taxi or landing lights on the ground.

(6)  Explain the compulsory use of anti-collision lights and navigation lights.

(7)  Explain that when taxiing in floodlit areas, extra caution will be needed as shadows may make obstructions hard to see.

Advice to Instructors

(1)  Exercise special caution at night. The instructor and the student must avoid becoming so focused on activities in the cockpit that look-out suffers.

(2)  Teach the student to taxi with and without the taxi light. Point out that it is advisable to use the taxi light when turning or manoeuvring in unfamiliar or congested areas.

(3)  Ensure that the student determines and remembers wind direction and applies proper control input to compensate.

(4)  If possible, have the student view the airport from a higher vantage point, such as a control tower.

Instruction and Student Practice

(1)  Review:

  1. Brake check;
  2. Use of controls while taxiing;
  3. Instrument checks while taxiing.

(2)  Demonstrate;

  1. Taxiing at night, with and without taxi light;
  2. Judging taxi speed;
  3. Courteous use of the landing and strobe lights while taxiing;



The student will learn how to take off at night under varied conditions with and without the use of the landing light.


Different visual references during the take-off, and the lack of references during the initial climb, impose special demands on the pilot when taking off at night.

Essential Background Knowledge

(1)  Review normal and cross-wind take-off procedures, including pre-take-off checks.

(2)  Review applicable emergency procedures.

(3)  Explain the use of the landing light for take-off.

(4)  Explain that instrument references may be required after take-off.

(5)  Explain the importance of maintaining a positive rate of climb after take-off.

(6)  Explain illusion of linear acceleration (pitch-up illusion) and black hole illusion.

(7)  Explain that no turns should be made below a safe altitude.

Advice to Instructors

(1)  Conduct the initial take-off with the landing light on.

(2)  Ensure that the student learns the position of the landing light switch.

(3)  Introducing the first night take-off at twilight allows a gradual progression to darkness.

(4)  Emphasize the importance of take-off planning to include consideration of wind, runway surface, obstacles, turbulence, and vortices.

(5)  Ensure that take-offs are done with and without a landing light.

(6)  Ensure that take-offs are done from different runways and, if possible, different airports.

(7)  Ensure that the student confirms a positive rate of climb after take-off using the VSI/altimeter.

Instruction and Student Practice

Demonstrate and practise normal and crosswind take-offs, with and without landing light.



The student will learn how to depart, enter, and fly an accurate circuit at night.


Flying an accurate circuit at night requires the use of a combination of visual and instrument references in order to maintain correct position relative to the runway and to other traffic. Achieving this accuracy is necessary and satisfying and it will benefit overall flying skill.

Essential Background Knowledge

(1)  Review circuit procedures:

  1. Departure;
  2. Entry;
  3. Controlled and uncontrolled airports;
  4. Radio procedures.

(2)  Review appropriate emergency procedures, including engine failure, forced landing, electrical fire, electrical malfunctions, and radio failure (ARCAL implications).

(3)  Explain the use of the heading indicator to fly an accurate circuit at night.

(4)  Explain the use of runway lights and approach lights as references.

(5)  Explain judgement of distance at night.

Advice to Instructors

(1)  A brief night familiarization flight in the area is recommended before the first night circuit.

(2)  Drift can be harder to determine at night but this assessment is necessary to fly an accurate circuit. Help the student to recognize and correctly compensate for drift in the circuit.

(3)  Long sessions in a night circuit can be very tiring. Keep the trips reasonably short.

(4)  Letting the students leave and re-enter the circuit can give them good experience.

Instruction and Student Practice

(1)  Conduct a brief familiarization flight in the area.

(2)  Demonstrate and have the student practise circuits:

  1. With varied approach and runway lighting conditions;
  2. At various airports, if possible, including controlled and uncontrolled airports;
  3. Emergency procedures, including engine failure, forced landing, electrical malfunctions, communication failure while in the circuit.

(3)  Demonstrate the use of the heading indicator to help fly an accurate circuit.

(4)  Demonstrate, where possible, how to use the ARCAL lighting system.

Approach and Landing


The student will learn how to conduct effective approaches and landings at night.


The visual references used for an approach at night are different than those experienced during the day. Also, the various illusions that can occur impose special demands on the pilot conducting an approach and landing at night.

Essential Background Knowledge

(1)  Review:

  1. Normal and cross-wind approach and landing, including appropriate checks;
  2. Overshoot procedure;
  3. Approach and runway lighting;
  5. Wake turbulence avoidance;
  6. ARCAL procedures;
  7. Use of retroreflective markers.

(2)  Explain illusions as they relate to approach and landing:

  1. Runway slope and width;
  2. Black holes — approaching over unlighted terrain;
  3. Effect of height and brightness of runway lights on judgement of flare.

(3)  Explain the use of runway lights to assess approach angle and drift.

(4)  Explain advantages and disadvantages of using the landing light for landing.

(5)  Explain the use of power during the flare to assist the landing.

(6)  Explain the importance of reducing speed before turning to exit the runway.

Advice to Instructors

(1)  Consider doing the first night approaches and landings at twilight to allow a gradual transition to night flying.

(2)  Emphasize the importance of proper trim and speed control.

(3)  Have the student use the landing light for the first few landings, then introduce some landings with the light off.

(4)  Ensure that the student looks far enough ahead on landing to detect forward, vertical, and lateral movement of the aircraft in relation to the runway.

(5)  The beam of a centre-mounted landing light acts as an extension of the longitudinal axis and may be used to assist in achieving correct alignment with the runway in cross-wind landings.

(6)  Full stop landings are more beneficial during the initial part of night training before attempting stop and go or touch and go landings.

Instruction and Student Practice

(1)  Demonstrate and have the student practise:

  1. Approaches and landings at night, gradually introducing variations such as cross-wind, different runways, landing light off, VASIS/PAPI lights off (if available), and different runway light intensities;
  2. Straight-in approaches;
  3. Simulated system failures, such as loss of cockpit instrument lights, landing light, or radio failure;
  4. The use of power on the flare;
  5. Overshoots.

(2)  Point out any illusions that may be experienced on approach and landing at night.

Pilot Navigation


The student will learn techniques for effective pilot navigation at night.


Pilot navigation by night, as by day, is a complex but very satisfying task when it is done well. The need to rely on lighted landmarks, the relative lack of detail available for navigational reference, and the difficulty in seeing approaching weather at night impose special demands on the pilot.

Essential Background Knowledge

(1)  Review:

  1. Pre-flight planning procedures;
  2. Pilot navigation techniques for departure, en route, and arrival;
  3. Cockpit lighting;
  4. Emergency procedures;
  5. Obtaining ATC assistance and DF steer.

(2)  Explain:

  1. Why accuracy of heading and time keeping is important;
  2. Map reading by night;
  3. How to judge distances at night;
  4. How to identify precipitation in the beam of the landing light.

Advice to Instructors

(1)  Emphasize the need for a thorough weather briefing.

(2)  Encourage, for flight planning purposes, the use of personal weather limits that are higher than the minimum legal requirements for VFR flight.

(3)  If possible, plan the trip so that the student navigates over populated and unpopulated areas.

(4)  Always have an alternate or an "out" for each leg.

(5)  Ensure that the student understands emergency procedures before the cross-country flight, then use "what-if" scenarios during the trip to develop decision-making skill.

(6)  Short trips out of the circuit and into the local area can be used to build pilot navigation skills before the actual cross-country flight.

(7)  If possible, plan to land at other airports during the cross-country flight.

(8)  Although a solo cross-country is not a requirement, many schools recommend a short solo cross-country at night, perhaps one involving a circuit at another airport.

Instruction and Student Practice

(1)  Demonstrate:

  1. Map reading;
  2. Judging distance.

(2)  Supervise student practice:

  1. Pre-flight planning;
  2. Departure;
  3. Set heading;
  4. En route navigation;
  5. Arrival;
  6. Emergencies.

Instrument Flying


The student will learn the instrument flying skills needed for night flying. See Exercise 24.

Advice to Instructors

(1)  Consider doing some of the instrument flying at night to develop this skill under the same conditions in which it will be needed — darkness.

(2)  Unusual attitudes are best done during daylight. The risk of disorientation is greater at night for both the student and the instructor.

(3)  All the required instrument flying should be completed before completing the night flying. Ideally, it should even be completed before sending the student solo at night.

Emergency Procedures


The student will learn how to correctly respond to emergencies at night.


All emergencies that can be encountered during the day can and do occur at night, and when they do they bring additional complications. There are also emergencies which are unique to the night environment. The student must understand these emergency situations and be competent in carrying out prompt proper procedures — indecision costs time and time may be crucial.

Essential Background Knowledge

(1)  Review:

  1. All emergency procedures as per P.O.H. or F/M;
  2. DF steer procedures;
  3. The fuel system;
  4. The electrical system.

(2)  Explain:

  1. How to interpret the ammeter;
  2. The implications of overcharging or undercharging;
  3. The action in the event of an electrical malfunction;
  4. The importance of carrying spare fuses of the right type;
  5. How to locate and replace the fuses by touch;
  6. The importance of being able to locate essential switches and controls in the cockpit without hesitation or looking;
  7. The use of a flashlight in the event of cockpit lighting failure;
  8. How to locate and turn on the ELT by touch.

(3)  Explain how to select a forced landing site at night, considering such details as terrain, snow covering, moonlight, and even automobile lighting on highways.

(4)  Explain the use of landing lights on a forced landing.

(5)  Explain ARCAL operation and the implications of transmitter failure.

Advice to Instructors

(1)  Explain why knowledge of the fuel and electrical system is so important in dealing with certain emergencies at night.

(2)  When teaching emergency procedures, do not create situations that add risk to the flight. In other words, do not practise accidents.

(3)  Precede all practice emergencies with the word "simulated".

Instruction and Student Practice

(1)  Demonstrate and have the student practise simulated emergency situations including:

  1. Cockpit lighting failure;
  2. Electrical system failure;
  3. NORDO procedures at night;
  4. Forced landing procedure while in the circuit;
  5. Choosing a forced landing area;

(2)  Ensure that the student can locate all critical switches by touch.

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