There are few things as beautiful as watching the sunrise or sunset from the air. It's a magical time of the day, made even more special by the fact that you don't really have to share it with anyone else. And there's the privilege of being able to see the city lights below whilst the stars twinkle above.

But with the peace and beauty of night flying come inherent dangers. The purpose of the Night Rating training is to understand the theoretical aspects of night flying.

This means understanding each element of the environment in which you will be operating in order to be able to:

  • Identify,
  • Avoid,
  • And recover, from any dangerous situations. Also,
  • To gain an appreciation for the risk and dangers, and ultimately
  • To promote safety and situational awareness.


How does this apply to you?

  • You require a Night Rating in order to legally fly (VFR) at night.
  • It is a requirement for your CPL (5hrs night PIC).
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  • The Night Rating Training requires a certain amount of flying with reference to instruments only, giving you a greater appreciation for the dangers of night flying, and an awareness of how to recognise , get out of, and avoid potentially dangerous situations.
  • You might be looking for a new or interesting challenge in order to broaden your skillset and become a better pilot overall.


You will often find that at night your senses will be more attuned to even the slightest change in the engine pitch, or vibration of the airframe.

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Everything feels amplified, and it easy to become paranoid. Did the engine just miss? Is it running rough? What if I have to do a forced landing?!

Remember, the aircraft doesn't know that it is night. Be extra careful in your preparation and planning prior to flight, always have an escape route and a plan B, and listen to that inner voice if something doesn't feel right.?


Navigating the SACAA website

Navigating the SACAA website can be challenging, even at the best of times. Below is some guidance on where to find the various regulations relating to Pilot Licencing (Part 61) and Rules of the Air (Part 91). I often find it easiest to use the search function (CTRL+F) to find the applicable section, rather than scrolling through lists and lists of options.

What is Night?

  • Night is defined as the period from 15 minutes after sunset, to 15 minutes before sunrise (Civil Aviation Regulation CAR Part 1). A Night Rating is required to fly VFR at night.
  • The aim of the night rating theoretical knowledge instruction syllabus referred to in sub-regulation CATS 61.14.1(2)(a) is to:
  • Ensure that the applicant has a thorough understanding of the theoretical aspects surrounding the night rating.
  • Night flying takes place in a potentially hostile environment and applicants must understand each element of the environment in which they are operating.

Visual Flight Rules

Just because it is dark, doesn't change the fact that you must still comply with Visual Flight Rules; i.e. you must conduct the flight in VMC.

You can find this information in the AIP's -> ENR -> ENR1.2 .

A VFR flight shall be conducted so that the aircraft is flown:

With visual reference to the surface by day and to identifiable objects by night, and at no time above more than three eights of cloud within a 5nm radius of the aircraft.

In other words, if you are flying tussen nrens enrens over the Karoo (for example), on a moonless night, and you can't actually make out where the Earth ends and the sky begins, you are not complying with Visual Flight Rules. But, if there were identifiable objects on the ground (such as buildings, lights, roads, etc), then you would comply with VFR.

A moonless night meant that not even the horizon was visible.

You are also required to fly in conditions of visibility and distance from cloud equal to or greater than those specified in the table below:

Outside of the above airspaces, the following applies with regards to VFR: Airspace Class Altitude Band Forward Flight Visibility Distance from cloud  C F G At and above 10 000 ft AMSL 8km Horizontally - 1500m

Vertically - 1000ft

C F G Below 10 000ft AMSL and above 3000ft AMSL, or above 1000ft above terrain, whichever is the hightr 5km Horizontally - 2000ft

Vertically - 500ft

C At and below 3000ft AMSL, OR 1000ft above terrain, whichever is the higher 5km Horizontally - 2000ft

Vertically - 500ft

F G At and below 3000ft AMSL, OR 1000ft above terrain, whichever is the higher 5km Clear of cloud and with the surface in sight

Requirements for a Night Rating (CAR 61.10.1)

  • An applicant for a night rating must
  • Hold a valid pilot license;
  • Submit proof of having have completed the following flight training :
  • Not less than 10hrs of instrument instruction, of which not more than 5hrs may be accumulated in an approved flight simulation training device (FSTD);
  • Have done not less than 5 take-offs and 5 landings by night as pilot manipulating the controls of the aircraft whilst under dual instruction;
  • A dual cross-country flight by night consisting of at least a total distance of 150 nm in the course of which full-stop landings at 2 different aerodromes away from base are made,
  • Have passed the theoretical knowledge examination conducted by an approved 141 aviation training organisation as prescribed in Document SA-CATS 61
  • Submit proof of having have completed the following ground instruction at an approved Part 141 aviation training organization:
  • Have done 5hrs of theoretical knowledge instruction as per SA-CATS 61
  • Have successfully undergone the prescribed skills test by a Grade I or II instructor (as prescribed in SA-CATS 61)


While your instructor will have a record of all your flight training, and schools normally provide a checklist to ensure you comply with the requirements, do triple check all your hours! There is nothing worse than submitting your paperwork only to have it rejected because you miscalculated and were 0.5hrs short of instrument time!

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

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