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Home > Blog > What Aircraft Can You Fly At Night

What Aircraft can you Fly at Night?

Posted 03 Nov 2022

What Aircraft can you Fly at Night?

Due to the higher level of risk involved due to the impaired visibility, night flying requires separate training and special night and instrument ratings.

There are few things as thrilling as night flying, especially when you’re flying over well-lit regions. Flying over cities offers pilots a spectacular view, and the low air traffic at night and relatively less crowded airwaves make for smoother flights and easy communication with the crew on the ground.

These are a few of the reasons why pilots choose to fly at night, but it is important to understand that a standard pilot licence does not allow pilots to fly aircraft at night.

Due to the higher level of risk involved due to the impaired visibility, night flying requires separate training and special night and instrument ratings.



It is illegal to fly without the necessary certification, and these rules and regulations are in place to guarantee the safety of the pilot as well as those on the ground. If a pilot is not trained in instrument use, they may find themselves in a dangerous situation when their vision is compromised due to the dark.

Most aircraft allow you to add on a night rating on top of your pilot licence so that you can be able to fly at night. However, not all aircraft are designed to be flown in the dark. These types of aircraft can only be flown during daylight hours, and operating them after the sun goes down is illegal and can result in prosecution or your pilot licence being revoked.

If you are someone who wishes to fly at night, then it is important for you to know which type of aircraft can be safely flown after dark. There are pros and cons to flying at night, but it is an added advantage that you may not be willing to compromise on.

This article will detail which aircraft can be flown at night and which cannot. It will also explain what the upsides of flying at night are, which aircraft is the best for night flying, as well as what precautions you must undertake when flying at night.

The article also has a section on night ratings and where you can train to fly various types of aircraft. Read on to find out whether night flying is for you, and if it is, which aircraft will be best suited to your needs as a pilot!



To answer your question briefly: No, not all aircraft can be flown at night. An aircraft has to meet a certain set of requirements in order to be suitable for operation in conditions of impaired visibility.

Most manual aircraft such as gliders can't be flown at night, whereas out of powered aircraft, microlights cannot be operated after dark. The reason behind this is simple. The aircraft that is being flown must be fitted with the instrumentation needed to pilot the aeroplane safely in the dark.

At night, pilots can't rely solely on their sight, which is where the complex navigation system of the aircraft comes in. Manual aircraft and microlights are not fitted with this instrumentation, which means they are not suitable to fly at night.

It is important to understand that flying an aircraft that is not authorised to fly in the dark at night is not only highly unsafe but also illegal. When it comes to aircraft that can be flown at night, the pilot must ensure they have the needed certification in order to be able to fly in the dark.



Light aircraft mainly refers to fixed-wing aircraft that have a single engine. These are standard aircraft for training purposes and most pilots learn to fly on a light aircraft. Sherburn houses a fleet of well-maintained light aircraft that are available to members on a rental basis.

Light aircraft are fitted with instrumentation that allows them to be safely piloted after dark. This means they are okay to fly at night. However, the pilot must make sure they have the necessary night rating which allows them to fly at night.


Licence Requirement

 In order to fly a light aircraft, the pilot must hold either the Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL) or a Private Pilot Licence (PPL) with an aeroplane rating. The PPL requires a total of 45 hours of training, while the LAPL requires a total of 12 hours of training.

These licences on their own do not allow the pilot to fly at night, and in order to do so, the pilot must undergo additional training and secure a night rating and instrument rating on top of their licence.

These ratings certify that the pilot has a sufficient amount of training that allows them to be in command of an aeroplane at night.



 Microlights are smaller than the standard light aircraft, with a seating capacity of no more than two people and a total weight not exceeding 450 kg. These are lighter and fly at slower speeds since they are geared mainly towards amateur and recreational pilots.

The microlight does not come fitted with the required instrumentation that would allow for it to be flown safely at night, so it cannot be operated after dark. Those who operate the microlight after dark risk crashing since the aeroplane is not designed for this type of flight.


Licence Requirements

 In order to fly a microlight, the pilot must have either a Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL) with a microlight rating or a National Private Pilot Licence (NPPL). If a pilot wishes to fly at night, they will have to switch to a standard light aircraft and obtain the necessary ratings.



Helicopters can be flown at night and they are often used in search and rescue missions after dark, as well as for purposes of patrolling the streets by the police. Helicopters are generally not as stable as aeroplanes, but with the necessary training, a helicopter pilot can safely fly a helicopter.


Licence Requirement

Much like the light aircraft, in order to fly a helicopter, the pilot must hold a Private Pilot Licence (PPL) with a helicopter rating. This means a total of 45 hours of flight time. If the pilot wishes to fly in a professional capacity, then a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) with a helicopter rating is a must.

Obtaining a night rating for the helicopter is generally more difficult as compared to the light aircraft since the controls of the helicopter are more complex and requires more hours of training. However, a night rating is necessary if the pilot wishes to fly the helicopter at night.



 Out of the helicopter and the light aircraft, the light aircraft wins out when it comes to the best aircraft to fly at night. This is because of a host of reasons, as explained below.



When compared to helicopters, aeroplanes are far more stable. This is because of the fixed-wing component which allows the pilot to sit tight and relax once the aeroplane has reached a cruising altitude. On the other hand, the helicopter requires the pilot to constantly put in an active effort to keep the helicopter in the air.

This becomes all the more difficult at night when the pilot has the added stress of flying in the dark.



 Compared to helicopters, light aircraft are more affordable. They are easy to maintain and the training is also relatively cheaper. The pilot will have to spend more time and money in order to get the night rating for a helicopter as compared to a light aircraft.



Despite the points highlighted above, which aircraft is the best for flying at night also has a lot to do with the purpose of the flight. If the purpose is to land close to a building or to rescue someone from drowning, then a helicopter may be better equipped. However, if the purpose is recreational flying or travelling over long distances, then a light aircraft may be better.



 Flying at night can be extremely fun if you have the required training for it. Here are all the pros of flying at night vs flying during the daytime:


Amazing views

There are few views as stunning as that of a brightly lit cityscape glittering below. Flying over well-lit areas is a true treat. In fact, flying across starry skies in areas where there isn’t a lot of light pollution is also an experience of a lifetime.

While daytime views are also beautiful, the night has its own unique charm to offer.


Relatively less traffic

Since flying at night requires more skill, the skies aren't usually as crowded at night. This means the pilots can have a relatively relaxed flying experience. For helicopters flying at lower altitudes, the fact that most birds are asleep also helps ensure that the flight will be a smooth one.


Smoother radio communication

Because of the lower traffic, there aren’t as many radio messages being sent from the sky to the control tower. This means that the radio waves aren’t crowded with messages, making for smoother radio communication.


Overnight flights

 For those looking to travel over long distances in an aeroplane, an overnight flight may be ideal since you can reach your destination the next day without having to make any stops. This saves fuel and time.



 There are a few precautions you must take in order to safely fly at night. They include:


Making sure you have the needed certification

 As already mentioned, you must make sure you are certified to fly at night. If you fly without having the necessary documentation, you are not only endangering your own life, but also the lives of others.

If you are caught flying at night without the right licence, you can face legal action and have your pilot licence revoked.


Getting good quality rest before your flight

Flying at night is great, but it does interfere with our biological clock. For this reason, it is necessary that you spend the day before you are set to take to the skies resting and catching up on sleep.

You have to ensure that you are well-rested, since flying requires your undivided attention, especially when it comes to helicopters!


Knowing all possible landing locations

In case there is an emergency and your visibility is impaired, it helps a lot to know all possible landing locations if you have to make an emergency landing. Always be prepared for the worst.


Taking your flashlight

 If you do have to make an emergency landing, you have to make sure you are well equipped to make it through the night. Make sure you have a flashlight and a blanket in case the weather is cold. It also helps to have snacks and a first aid box on hand at all times.


Keeping supplemental oxygen on hand


When cruising at higher altitudes at night, it is a good idea to keep supplemental oxygen on hand. Lower oxygen levels can make your head feel cloudy, so make sure you keep your levels in check and inhale some oxygen if need be.




Sherburn Aero Club

 If you wish to learn how to fly an aeroplane at night, you can opt for lessons at Sherburn Aero Club. Located in Yorkshire, it is one of the best pilot training facilities and flying clubs in the UK.


Hields Aviation

 For those of you who wish to fly a helicopter, Hields Aviation, located in the same airfield as Sherburn, is a great option. They offer pilot training for both helicopters as well as fixed-wing aircraft.



Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs. It is one of the largest flying clubs in the North of England and also one of the largest in the country.

The flying club is home to a diverse community of pilots and highly-trained CFIs dedicated to making sure you have a great learning experience. Located within Sherburn’s airfield, Hields Aviation provides pilots with the opportunity to fly helicopters in a safe, fun, and welcoming environment.

Hields offers training in the Private Pilot Licence (PPL) for helicopters as well as light aircraft. It also offers helicopter flight experiences for those of you who wish to experience the thrill of flying an aeroplane without making the commitment to training.

With 30+ years in helicopter flying, it provides a range of helicopter services including charter/brokerage, experience flights, aerial filming/photography, and pilot training. With a friendly team of instructors and years of experience in the industry, the helicopter school alone has logged over 35,000 flying hours!

From a simple cost-effective Robinson R44 to the luxury 5-seater Bell 505 Jet Ranger, Hields Aviation’s helicopter fleet has something for everyone. Whether you’re thinking of learning how to fly a helicopter, hiring from our helicopter fleet, or fancy a flight experience across Yorkshire, our facility at Sherburn is here to welcome you!

You get the chance to meet new friends and experience the nature of a real family business. Our airfield facilities include the ability to carry out all the syllabus on the field and we even have our own dedicated helicopter circuits.

If you wish to fly microlights, you can join Breeze Aviation, our microlight training facility in the heart of Yorkshire. Offering some of the best microlight training facilities and training standards in the country, Breeze Aviation is the perfect choice for gaining your microlight pilot licence.

It integrates seamlessly with large scale GA training and hire, helicopter training and charter, commercial and advanced flight training, and classic tiger moth experiences.

With an extremely special aircraft fleet that consists of brand-new, high-performance microlights such as the latest factory-built Eurofox 3K, Breeze Aviation is one of only two microlight flight schools in the UK to offer training on the amazing Eurofox.

Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on flying at night and which aircraft are best suited for it!

Photo by Jorge Bermudez on Unsplash 



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