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Let's say I want to get night current again, but I haven't flown at night recently so I hire an instructor to fly with me. If I don't count PIC time I don't see a problem, I would just log it as dual instruction. But if I log PIC time, is the instructor considered a passenger? If so I wouldn't be able to have the instructor with me since I am not night current.

Is there an exception for flying with an instructor?

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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

You can log PIC time because you are "the sole manipulator of the controls of an aircraft for which the pilot is rated" (14 CFR 61.51). That's all that is required in this case for the pilot to log PIC time.

So since a pilot must be night current in order to fly with passengers, (61.57(b)) the question becomes, "is a flight instructor considered a passenger if they are providing instruction"?

AOPA has a flight briefing about this specific scenario where they quote FAA legal interpretations as saying:

"We agree that, for purposes of section 61.57(b), an authorized instructor providing instruction in an aircraft is not considered a passenger with respect to the person receiving instruction, even where the person receiving the instruction is acting as [pilot in command]. (The instructor must be current, qualified to instruct, and hold a category, class, and type rating in the aircraft, if a class and type rating is required.) The instructor is not a passenger because he is present specifically to train the person receiving instruction. Neither is the person receiving instruction a passenger with respect to the instructor. This training may take place, even though neither pilot has met the 61.57(b) requirements."

Note that they say in this case, since neither of them is a passenger, that technically neither the pilot or the flight instructor has to be night current.

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Here's the FAA's legal definition of a pilot in command from 14 CFR 1.1. Note that this is a definition completely independent from the requirements to log PIC time:

Pilot in command means the person who:

(1) Has final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of the flight;

(2) Has been designated as pilot in command before or during the flight; and

(3) Holds the appropriate category, class, and type rating, if appropriate, for the conduct of the flight.

On a flight like this, you may act as PIC of the flight as long as you are rated for the aircraft, and you may therefore log PIC time. The CFI can log PIC time, as an instructor can log all time spent instructing (this would count - you're working on your night landings). 14 CFR 61.51(e) covers the logging of PIC time.

If, for some reason, the pilot receiving instruction does not feel competent to act as the PIC, they can designate the CFI as the PIC based on item (2) of the definition in 14 CFR 1.1. If this is the case, as they're still sole manipulator of the controls, PIC time may still be logged by the non-instructing pilot.

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