Civil Aviation Authority To Allow Pilots To Fly VFR At Night
By Jim Douglas
May 11, 2012 - The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has
announced a change to night flying regulations which
will allow aircraft to operate under Visual Flight Rules
(VFR) in the hours of darkness beginning June 8, 2012.
Current UK regulations require any flight at night to be
conducted in accordance with the Instrument Flight Rules
(IFR). According to Rule 20(2) of the Rules of the Air
Regulations 2007, aircraft flying at night in the UK
must do so in accordance with the IFR unless flying in a
Control Zone on a Special VFR flight.
However, due to the introduction of European
Regulations, principally the European Aviation Safety
Agency (EASA) Aircrew Regulation which includes Flight
Crew Licensing (Part-FCL) and the Standardized European
Rules of the Air (Part-SERA).
After due consideration of the consequences of these rule
changes and possible ways forward, the CAA has concluded that
the preferred option is, subject to specific conditions, to
allow aircraft to fly in accordance with VFR at night in the UK,
allowing pilots to decide whether to fly VFR or IFR.
The CAA considers that to do nothing is not a viable option
because of the resulting withdrawal of night flying privileges
from pilots who hold a Night Rating but not an IR. It is also
undesirable to implement the Regulations in a manner which is
inconsistent with the rest of Europe.
Visual Flight Rules are an internationally agreed standard set
of operating rules designed to help prevent collisions between
aircraft and the ground by ensuring that pilots fly in weather
conditions that enable them to see a potential collision and
take action to avoid it.
Instrument Flight Rules are a more restrictive set of internationally agreed operating rules which include additional measures to help prevent collisions between aircraft particularly when flying in weather conditions where pilots may not be able to see other aircraft or obstacles (such as in cloud or poor visibility) and in areas with high volumes of traffic.
The changes are being made to take into account new and emerging
European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations for pilot licensing
and rules of the air. The CAA said that the change will be an
improvement on the current night IFR requirements which are unique to
the UK and not fully understood by all pilots, especially those visiting
The CAA said that most of the requirements for VFR at night are similar
to the existing Instrument Flight Rules, so UK pilots will be able to
continue flying at night as normal provided they hold a valid Night
Rating or Qualification. Pilots who hold an Instrument Rating or IMC
Rating will continue to have the choice of flying IFR at night.
Visual Flight Rules at Night - The Civil Aviation Authority intends to issue a General Exemption to enable flight under the Visual Flight Rules at night subject to the following conditions being met:
a) The visibility and distance from cloud minima as specified in Rule 27 and 28 shall apply except that:
i) The cloud ceiling shall not be less than 1,500 ft.;
ii) Except as specified in (1)(a)(iii), the provisions specified in Rule 28 (4) and (5) shall not apply; and
iii) for helicopters in airspace classes F and G at and below 3,000 ft.
above mean sea level or 1,000 ft. above terrain, whichever is the
higher, flight visibility shall not be less than 3 km, provided that the
pilot maintains continuous sight of the surface and the helicopter is
maneuvered at a speed that will give adequate opportunity to observe
other traffic or obstacles in time to avoid collision;
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