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Home > Blog > Flying In The Day Vs Night Which Do Pilots Prefer

Flying in the day vs night: Which do pilots prefer?

Posted 07 Mar 2022

Flying in the day vs night

Due to the limited visibility at night, beginner pilots are discouraged from taking to the skies after sunset, and for good reason.

When it comes to flying, chances are most of the flight training you will undertake early on in your career will be in the daytime when the sun is shining and the visibility is great. Due to the limited visibility at night, beginner pilots are discouraged from taking to the skies after sunset, and for good reason.

For an inexperienced pilot, flying an aircraft at night is a dangerous thing to do and proper certification is necessary, issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of the United Kingdom. These must be acquired in addition to your already existing pilot’s licence, and once you complete the training needed for flying at night, the experience of piloting an aircraft after dark can be a truly rewarding one. 

While there are many more advantages of daytime flying as compared to flying after dark, the thrill of seeing glittering city lights from the sky on a clear night is quite incomparable. 

Whether a pilot prefers to fly an aircraft during daylight hours or at night really does come down to personal preference, and here we have laid out the exact benefits and possible shortcomings of both kinds of flight in order to help you decide what time would be best suited to you.

However, the experience gained in the field remains paramount in helping a pilot decide on their preferences.

 Read on to find out the advantages of flying during the day and night, the safety precautions to take when flying at night, what a night rating is, and how to get it:



 Flying during the day has several advantages, a few of them being:


Greater visibility

While it all comes down to your preferences, daytime flying has the upper hand when it comes to visibility. Because of the sunlight, any possible obstructions, such as rocks or mountains, are far easier to spot, making the likelihood of accidents much less and daytime flying the safer option by far.

 For newer pilots, the fact that visibility is limited may become a cause of concern and anxiety, which may affect decision-making. This makes flying at night a rather dangerous undertaking for beginner pilots who do not have the necessary documentation.


Better view

 This is an extension of the previous point, but instead of safety, it is more focused on aesthetics. While city lights twinkling in the distance are truly a stunning sight, most other natural landscapes are cloaked in darkness.

Flying during the day means getting a birds-eye view of green pastures, a vast blue ocean, and mountainous landscapes. Fluffy white clouds seen from the window seat of a plane or the cockpit are also a sight to behold.

 Even in cityscapes, a pilot or passenger can make out certain buildings by spotting colours and shapes. For those more visually-inclined, daytime flying really does take the cake.


Weather spotting


Sunlight is a great aid to pilots. In the dark, it can be difficult to spot clouds, which may lead to a bumpy flight if the pilot is not experienced in night-time flying.

If a storm pops up unexpectedly, it is likely that the plane can get caught up in it if communication about bad weather is not established beforehand. However, it should be understood that it is highly unlikely to fly into bad weather.

A sufficiently trained pilot will make use of the available instrumentation to ensure the path ahead is clear and safe for a flight.

Biologically better-suited

Humans are not nocturnal, and staying up throughout the night goes against a person’s biological wiring. The circadian rhythm of a human is tuned to the sun, and this becomes disrupted when flying at night.

For beginners, it may be difficult to stay awake on a night-time flight. If a pilot is tired, it may affect their mental faculties and the ability to make quick decisions.

However, it is possible to rewire your biological clock by getting sufficient rest during the daytime, although this is much easier said than done due to the number of distractions present in the daytime.


Less dependent on avionics

 Humans prefer to rely on their five senses and resort to technological instruments only when necessary. This issue becomes rather pronounced during night-time flying when sight is compromised, and pilots must rely on machines in order to be sure of the clarity of the route ahead.

However, this issue can be overcome with a little bit of extra training and practice which is bound to come along with the night-time flight experience necessary for getting a Night Rating.



The advantages of night-time flying include:

Less traffic

This isn’t really much different from driving a motor car. Just like a night-time drive is a joyful and calming experience because of the lack of traffic, flying an aircraft after dark means less crowded skies and airports. 

While there aren’t nearly as many aeroplanes in the sky as there are cars on the road, not having to share the runway with other aircraft lined up for take-off is a burden off the pilot’s shoulders. Also, for pilots flying at relatively lower altitudes, the chances of colliding with birds are reduced significantly due to the fact that very few birds take to the sky at night.

Smoother flight

Less traffic and a cool breeze also make for a smoother flight, if you don’t take into account unexpectedly bumping into clouds. On clear nights, there is less friction against the wings which makes for obstruction-free sailing across the sky.

Less air traffic also means smoother cruising, since most pilots can sit back and not worry about the aircraft in their path. Less turbulence is always a plus when it comes to aviation, for both the pilot and the passengers.

Better radio communication

 An obvious result of less air traffic is cleaner airwaves, allowing for better radio communication. The clear radio communication may help put pilots more at ease, who may otherwise be worried about establishing a connection with control towers and other aircraft.

Regular calls to air traffic controllers are necessary when piloting an aircraft to ensure the path ahead is clear and that the plane can land safely when the time comes. 

Peaceful flight

For pilots flying passengers, especially of commercial airlines, the nagging passenger who is constantly calling on the staff may be a bit of a nuisance. One of the biggest advantages of flying at night is that this kind of passenger will probably be asleep. For this reason, flying at night is a more peaceful experience for pilots.



 When flying at night, there are certain safety precautions that you must undertake to ensure you reach your destination under ideal conditions:

Know all available airports

One of the most important precautions to take when flying at night comes well before the pilot actually boards the aircraft. Although this is standard practice regardless of the time you are flying, it becomes all the more critical to make sure you know all the airports in your route that are available for landing.

In case an emergency landing must be made, poor visibility and the added stress of flying at night may cloud your senses. If this happens, it is necessary to know all the available airports beforehand.

If needed, the pilot should take a longer flight, so long as there are airports available every few miles.

Higher cruising altitudes

When piloting an aircraft at night, it is a smart practice to fly at a higher altitude. This is mainly because, in the event that an emergency landing must be made, the few extra minutes it will take to get to the ground may allow for important decisions to be made.

When you glide towards the ground without power in the case of an emergency, a few extra miles can make a lot of difference.

Keep a flashlight handy

This one’s a no-brainer. For pre-flight inspections, it is best to keep a high-beam flashlight handy. Smartphone flashlights may not provide the kind of power you need. In order to be sure that you won’t be left relying on a smartphone, it is best to carry an industrial flashlight and a similar spare in case the primary one does not function properly.  

Supplemental oxygen

 At night, the effect that lack of oxygen has on your vision may be far more pronounced than in the daytime. For this reason, it is a good idea to carry supplemental oxygen in case you plan on flying the aircraft above 5000 feet.

 However, you must ensure that the oxygen is stored correctly since it is highly flammable and can prove hazardous on an aircraft.

Rest in the daytime

The paramount need of a pilot when flying at night is a good eight to ten hours of sleep before they board the aircraft. A well-rested pilot is quick on their feet and can fly an aircraft to the best of their ability.

Be sure to block out your windows to prevent sunlight from creeping in, since this may affect the quality of your sleep, and try to get in the equivalent of a good night’s rest.

Your physical and mental health will be in optimal condition if you are well-rested. A foggy brain cannot make quick decisions, which is a basic need when it comes to aviation. For the sake of your own safety and that of your passengers and people on the ground, prioritise sleep.

In addition to this, staying hydrated is very important to make sure you aren’t flying an aircraft while feeling sluggish.

Make sure you have a healthy diet and aren’t consuming too much sugar or caffeine before the flight, as this may cause drowsiness mid-flight.


 Having a pilot licence isn’t enough to take off after sunset. Even if you have completed the hours needed for a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), you will still need an additional Night Rating to ensure that you are fit to fly after dark.

The Night Rating really broadens your horizons when it comes to aviation, allowing you to experience the fun of flying an aircraft at night. In addition to allowing pilots to experience night-time flights for enjoyment purposes, the rating also serves as a safety net for pilots who have become victims of delays. 

Rather than having to wait for an entire night to pass in order to get on board and take off, a pilot with formal certification allowing them to fly an aircraft after the sun is down can simply jet throughout the night and arrive at their destination by the time the sun is up, saving them precious hours and money in lodging costs.


 Getting a Night Rating is not at all difficult. However, before applying for it, a medical examiner must ensure that the pilot does not suffer from sight-related issues such as colour blindness.

Being colour-safe is of primary importance. A complete sight evaluation is part of the Class 1 medical certificate needed for the issuance of a Private Pilot Licence, so most licence holders will not have an issue with regard to medical checks.

The Night Rating ensures that a pilot can operate in accordance with Visual Flight Rules (VFR). An Instrument Rating (IR) is also necessary when applying for a Night Rating.

If you have a PPL, you already have an IR, but Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL) holders, which is a less stringent version of the PPL, will need to apply for it separately.

At least five hours of night-time flying in an appropriate aircraft are necessary in order to apply for a Night Rating with the CAA. This should include at least one cross-country flight totalling 50 kms. Five solo take-offs and landings are also a requirement.

The best part about a Night Rating is that it has lifetime validity, so you only have to undergo the formalities of obtaining it once.


For those who wish to fly an aeroplane at night, any pilot’s licence will do. The least stringent licence, the Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL), will need an additional Instrument Rating. However, the rating is part of the Private Pilot Licence (PPL), so a few extra hours of training should be enough for a pilot to apply for night certification.

For those holding a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), a Night Rating is a must, and chances are that the pilot already obtained it in the earlier phases of their career, before upgrading to a professional licence.


Sherburn Aero Club has been operational since 1964 and is the ideal place for all of your training and flying needs. We cater to brand new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades.

We offer dedicated and comprehensive flight training along with the required experience for operating an aircraft at night. In addition to this, the club also offers simulators for various training needs to help new pilots gain confidence before the real deal.

For those who wish to experience the thrill of a flight for fun or to help fuel their aviation dreams, Sherburn offers experience flights for the newbie, as well as the veteran. The flight experience option is also available for people who wish to take to the skies for special occasions, even if they aren’t into aviation for the long run.

If you wish to begin your career in aviation or wish to take to the skies as a hobby, Sherburn offers pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward.

You are required to take medical exams to prove you are fit enough to take to the skies when applying for a licence, and the facility at Sherburn allows you to start off your aviation journey on the right foot.


Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on night-time flying, Night ratings, as well as training facilities available at Sherburn.

Photo by Ethan Hu on Unsplash 



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