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In the FAA JO 7110.65 that provides rules for air traffic control, the following limitations are listed for VFR climb and descent:

8−8−5. VFR CLIMB AND DESCENT

a. In the Houston, Miami, and San Juan CTAs, IFR flights may be cleared to climb and descend in VFR conditions only:
1. When requested by the pilot; and
2. Between sunrise and sunset.

The key part here seems to be the second condition, as section 7-1-2 just lists the first one.

7−1−2. VFR CONDITIONS

a. You may clear aircraft to maintain “VFR conditions” if one of the following conditions exists:
1. The pilot of an aircraft on an IFR flight plan requests a VFR climb/descent.

So what makes the Houston, Miami, and San Juan areas special that VFR climb/descent must be during the day? Section 8 is the Caribbean ICAO region, which seems to only include the oceanic sections of Houston and Miami. But this rule doesn't specify "oceanic" and none of the other oceanic areas seem to have this rule.

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  • $\begingroup$ Multiple thunderstorms in the area, perhaps? $\endgroup$ – Mike Brass Aug 26 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ The Gulf and Caribbean have many light planes and helicopters at low levels who may wish to avoid clouds despite being IFR. Other oceanic regions are almost exclusively jets above the clouds. $\endgroup$ – StephenS Aug 26 at 21:46
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It looks like by default, night VFR isn't allowed in oceanic airspace. The 8-8-5 text you quoted appears to be an exception that does allow night VFR in certain specific Control Areas (CTAs) that are in US airspace.

This is from the US AIP 7.1:

1. IFR/VFR Operations
1.1 Flights in oceanic airspace must be conducted under Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) procedures when operating:
1.1.1 Between sunset and sunrise.
1.1.2 At or above Flight Level (FL) 055 when operating within the New York, Oakland, and Anchorage Oceanic Flight Information Regions (FIRs).
1.1.3 Above FL180 when operating within the Miami and Houston FIRs and in the San Juan Control Area. Flights between the east coast of the U.S., and Bermuda or Caribbean terminals, and traversing the New York FIR at or above 5,500 feel MSL should be especially aware of this requirement.

1.1.1 essentially says "no night VFR"; 1.1.2 and 1.1.3 say "except in US airspace".

As to why, many countries don't allow night VFR at all and I suspect that it's generally not allowed in oceanic regions to simplify international operations and/or comply with ICAO requirements. Trying to remember which countries allow night VFR as you fly along an international route is probably impractical, especially in the Caribbean. But, since the US does allow night VFR, a VFR climb/descent is possible if the specific airspace in question is US airspace.

(I couldn't find any source on why these rules exist so this is all just my own explanation based on what I could piece together. Someone else may come up with something better.)

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