21 Preventive L. Rep. 6 (2002-2003)
FAA Measures to Prevent Night Time Flying Accidents

handle is hein.journals/prevlr21 and id is 30 raw text is: FAA MEASURES TO PREVENT NIGHT

by Cory Tipton*

Over the last few years, there have
been an increasing number of lawsuits
stemming from aircraft operations
throughout the United States. Our avi-
ation administrative agencies and reg-
ulatory bodies are looking at ways
to prevent accidents, and thus elimi-
nate the law suits that accompany
them. While their intent is good, it
is important for regulators to be mind-
ful of pilots' rights provided by both
their pilot certificates and administra-
tive agencies.
This article will examine the meas-
ures the Federal Aviation Administra-
tion (FAA) is considering to prevent
nighttime accidents. Additionally, fac-
tors the FAA has failed to consider in
revising the existing regulations will be
discussed. Finally, the article will look
at prudent measures suggested by Na-
tional Transportation Safety Board
(NTSB) to reduce the number of night-
time accidents.
At the end of 2001, there were over
625,000 licensed pilots throughout the
United States' and over 42,500,000
general aviation operations at con-
trolled airports were reported.' The
number of reported general aviation
operations does not include the mil-
lions of operations each year that are
made by general aviation aircraft at un-
controlled airports.  During the ap-
proximately 42,500,000 controlled air-
port operations in 2001, 953 accidents
were recorded.' The number of night-
time aviation accidents is only slightly
disproportionate to the number of an-
nually recorded accidents, as roughly
one-tenth of all general aviation acci-
dents occur at night, while less than 10
percent of the flying is done after

The FAA currently defines night as
the time between the end of evening
civil twilight and the beginning of
morning civil twilight, converted to
local time.' Generally speaking, a
pilot may fly night or day wherever
they want so long as they do not fly
into restricted areas.' In light of the
March 29, 2001 crash of a Gulfstream
III aircraft near the Aspen, Colorado
airport, the NTSB is considering
whether the FAA's definition of night
adequately describes dark conditions
in mountainous areas.
In addition to the FAA's definition of
night, the agency's definition of the

two different types of flying permitted
in United States airspace; Visual Flight
Rules (VFR) or Instrument Flight Rules
(IFR) must be considered. Under VFR
a pilot may fly during the day or night,
under their own control, with refer-
ence to the terrain and/or their instru-
ments, so long as they are within the
weather minimums set forth in the
Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR).3
VFR pilots are not required to remain
under the positive control or guidance
of an FAA air controller, but must ordi-

narily maintain visual contact with the
ground and obstructions to flight.
On the other hand, when flying under
IFR, the aircraft is always under the
positive control of a controller, and the
pilot is dependent on their instruments
regardless of whether it is day or night
or the weather conditions. In addi-
tion, under IFR a pilot must remain on
airways designated solely for IFR
flight. It is important to note that
more training and a more advanced
FAA rating are required in order to
legally fly under IFR.
The differences between VFR and
IFR may have some influence on po-
tential changes to the administrative
agency's regulations redefinition of
night. The FAA's initial suggestion,
made following the Gulfstream acci-
dent in Colorado was to change the
night flight requirements.  If the
agency changed those requirements,
only IFR rated pilots would be permit-
ted to fly at night. The rationale be-
hind this change in the rule is that pi-
lots with limited experience and lim-
ited aircraft would be protected.
It has been argued that merely
changing the definition of night is
not enough, and instead the actual
requirements for flying at night
should be changed. The proposals
made by the FAA overlooks a funda-
mental fact of nighttime accidents, that
many take place in mountainous
regions and involve IFR aircraft and
pilots. It is imperative the FAA con-
sider that night safety is about more
than just changing the regulations
to allow only IFR pilots the freedom to
fly at night.
The Gulfstream III accident is just
one example of the numerous night-
time accidents, in mountainous terrain,



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