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FAR 61.129 several times uses the phrase “night VFR conditions.” Does this mean strictly flights conducted under VFR at night, or does it include night flights conducted under IFR but in VMC?

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"Night VFR conditions" describes the flight conditions, not the flight rules. The PCG says:

VFR CONDITIONS− Weather conditions equal to or better than the minimum for flight under visual flight rules.

If the requirement was to conduct the flight under VFR, the regulation would say "under VFR". For example, 91.185(b) shows that the FAA sometimes makes that distinction (emphasis mine):

If the failure occurs in VFR conditions, or if VFR conditions are encountered after the failure, each pilot shall continue the flight under VFR and land as soon as practicable.

So you can do the flights under IFR in VMC if you like.

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Since it specifically says "VFR," you can't be on an IFR clearance, or following IFR rules in uncontrolled airspace. You are never both VFR and IFR at the same time, you can only be one. You can be VMC while IFR, but that doesn't meet the requirement as written in this rule.

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  • $\begingroup$ When a pilot is flying "VFR on top", they must comply with VFR rules (cloud clearance; own traffic management) and IFR rules at the same time. $\endgroup$ – abelenky Dec 28 '18 at 19:14
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    $\begingroup$ Can you cite a source for this? The phrase "VFR conditions" is actually quite ambiguous. VFR is a set of rules, not a condition. VMC is a condition. They should have said either "in VMC" or "under VFR." $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Dec 28 '18 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ The Aviation Weather Center (at aviationweather.gov) describes weather conditions as "VFR", "marginal VFR", "IFR", or "low IFR", even though those terms don't accurately describe the rules flights are actually conducted under. $\endgroup$ – Terran Swett Dec 29 '18 at 5:58
  • $\begingroup$ I have LONG hated the phrases VFR/IFR "Conditions". I think they are vague and lead to misunderstandings. They are used in multiple locations throughout the FARs, and IFR Conditions is even defined in Part 1. This question/answer is a specific example of it being a confusing term. @Ralgha says, "it specifically says VFR"; however, that's not correct. It says "VFR Conditions", which is a set of wx conditions that differ depending upon class of airspace. So as long as you have "good weather", and you're Inst. rated, you can file IFR and meet the strict verbiage of 61.129 for your night flights. $\endgroup$ – Jimmy Dec 29 '18 at 20:26

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