I was talking to a Sheriff's Department helicopter pilot and he was saying they fly around at night with night vision goggles. I know the military does too.

What are some of the considerations that pilots flying with night vision goggles have to deal with when learning to fly with them?

How long does it take for someone to be certified/trained to fly with night vision goggles?

What is the most difficult part about it? Could civilians do it if they owned the gear?

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    $\begingroup$ night vision does not give depth perception $\endgroup$ Oct 9, 2014 at 7:56
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    $\begingroup$ Moderately difficult if there are bridges that don't show up on NVGs... $\endgroup$
    – SSumner
    Oct 10, 2014 at 0:54
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    $\begingroup$ Its a bit of a misnomer that goggles remove depth perception. Its more accurate to say that they alter your perception and that they take a period of adjustment to become accustomed to. However, their use can lead to extreme disorientation and vertigo and proper training should be sought before use in flight. Terrain contrast levels, especially shadows, can greatly alter how the goggles interpret what they're looking at. Its not uncommon for people to think they're about to die descending through a cloud layer with similar contrast to the ground. $\endgroup$ May 28, 2015 at 5:36

5 Answers 5


All those answers are pretty wrong. One eye..Can't read the instruments.. Aviation ANVS like the ANVS 9's are dual tube. You focus them to your liking,individually for each eye! I personally get 20/20 with them and you mount them high and simply look under them to read the instruments! I have over 7,000 hours of single pilot NVG. They make things safer, easier, and it's just like flying during the day, only everything is green. Things like towers and wires (powerlines) are actually MORE visible under NVG's. It usually takes established pilots with zero NVG time only a few hours to adjust. Nothing to it.

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    $\begingroup$ Hello Skyler, welcome to Aviation.SE. Can you please rephrase your answer and tune down the tone a bit? Currently it reads too much like a rant to me. I am not voting to remove it yet since it is your first post and I think it holds valuable information. Without the first sentences, less CAPS and exclamation marks it would be a much better answer. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    May 27, 2015 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ Please read HOW TO ANSWER $\endgroup$
    – anshabhi
    May 27, 2015 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ Your knowledge is truly constructive, but as you know, being polite also matters! $\endgroup$
    – anshabhi
    May 27, 2015 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ All those answers I see only one in addition to yours. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    May 27, 2015 at 16:42

Actually, typically, they will only use one goggle, over one eye. (In my experience.)

Having instruments should overcome most of the difficulties of flying with NVG's. Certainly better than no night vision.

The most difficult challenge is having no depth perception.

An EMS/MEDSTAR helicopter in my hometown crashed while flying with night vision goggles for that very reason; they flew into a power line I believe which they thought was farther away.

EDIT: Old post, but I thought I'd share a story that I didn't think about at the time that is relevant.

Had a friend who was in the army and told me about having to be the lead vehicle in a HMMWV column at night in a combat zone (which means no headlights) and having to drive with a night vision goggle over one eye (which means no depth perception) on a road on the side of a cliff for several hours. The road was only about a foot wider than the vehicle. Scary stuff.

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    $\begingroup$ Big difficulty is that they were focussed at infinity so you couldn't read instruments. We did a lot of work to overlay HUD info graphics into the image but the resolution at the time was too low, the info took the entire view. Now they mostly use digital viewfinders that simply relay the image from an intensified or IR camera - like google-glasses $\endgroup$ Mar 21, 2015 at 15:43

I flew the single seat light-attack A7 for the US Navy. In 1985 I was at a base out west that was a test center, and was testing software upgrades to the flight system. When I got there, the only other pilot had been talking to the squadron down the apron. They had a bunch of Cobras that were using night vision goggles at the time.

He had gotten the pilots to loan him at least 2 pairs of each of the thermal and image intensification goggles. As far as I am aware he might have been the first one doing this sort of experiment in tactical low-level attack jets in the western world. Having completed 2 cruises in the Mediterranean, and briefing for war several times, there was never mention of this sort of thing.

He had a colleague down at that squadron who was flying Harriers and they would go up in the 2 seat trainer we had. The pilot in the back was there as a safety. With some time under their belts using the goggles at altitude they started simulating tactical missions.

I went up with the night vision glasses in the back seat with him. We did an attack profile on a couple of oil tanks, and this took us through a few canyons, and finally into a pop-up delivery. I flew a bit of the mission from the back. I found it deceptively easy.

The technology back then didn't give you any peripheral vision and this produced some anxiety. When flying we always practiced keeping our "heads on a swivel," and this made that even more important. For me, the challenge was not being lulled into a sense of complacency because I felt like I could see at night now.

  • $\begingroup$ Would you please consider answering this one? aviation.stackexchange.com/q/67793/15311 $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2019 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ Looked at the posts and there are some god answers there. Thanks for letting me know about it. I found it an interesting read. $\endgroup$
    – Aaron
    Aug 23, 2019 at 11:16

As a rotary wing attack pilot, I will say that the difficulty of flying on goggles runs the gambit of relatively easy and intuitive to just about the scariest thing you can do in an aircraft.

Relatively easy: “high light”, single ship, recce on a cloudless night.

Scary/difficult: 0% illum, light division, over the the ocean, windless day, boats everywhere, false horizons, interloping aircraft, non-permissive environment (our lighting is cloaked), shooting rockets and gun at an island that has friendlies several hundred meters away from our target/impacts.

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    $\begingroup$ I've read this twice and I'm still not sure what some of it means due to lack of proper sentence structure. $\endgroup$
    – Transistor
    Feb 16, 2018 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ I was going for a stream of consciousness but point taken. I hope you are able to understand the content a little better now. $\endgroup$
    – SemperFly
    Feb 18, 2018 at 0:09

Near as I know, it is not difficult to do, though you must receive and log ground and flight training from an authorized instructor on NVG use and receive a logbook endorsement prior to operating an aircraft as PIC using NVG equipment.

14 CFR §§61.31(k)

(k)Additional training required for night vision goggle operations.

(1) Except as provided under paragraph (k)(3) of this section, a person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft using night vision goggles only if that person receives and logs ground training from an authorized instructor and obtains a logbook or training record endorsement from an authorized instructor who certifies the person completed the ground training. The ground training must include the following subjects:

(i) Applicable portions of this chapter that relate to night vision goggle limitations and flight operations;

(ii) Aeromedical factors related to the use of night vision goggles, including how to protect night vision, how the eyes adapt to night, self-imposed stresses that affect night vision, effects of lighting on night vision, cues used to estimate distance and depth perception at night, and visual illusions;

(iii) Normal, abnormal, and emergency operations of night vision goggle equipment;

(iv) Night vision goggle performance and scene interpretation; and

(v) Night vision goggle operation flight planning, including night terrain interpretation and factors affecting terrain interpretation.

(2) Except as provided under paragraph (k)(3) of this section, a person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft using night vision goggles only if that person receives and logs flight training from an authorized instructor and obtains a logbook or training record endorsement from an authorized instructor who found the person proficient in the use of night vision goggles. The flight training must include the following tasks:

(i) Preflight and use of internal and external aircraft lighting systems for night vision goggle operations;

(ii) Preflight preparation of night vision goggles for night vision goggle operations;

(iii) Proper piloting techniques when using night vision goggles during the takeoff, climb, enroute, descent, and landing phases of flight; and

(iv) Normal, abnormal, and emergency flight operations using night vision goggles.

(3) The requirements under paragraphs (k)(1) and (2) of this section do not apply if a person can document satisfactory completion of any of the following pilot proficiency checks using night vision goggles in an aircraft:

(i) A pilot proficiency check on night vision goggle operations conducted by the U.S. Armed Forces.

(ii) A pilot proficiency check on night vision goggle operations under part 135 of this chapter conducted by an Examiner or Check Airman.

(iii) A pilot proficiency check on night vision goggle operations conducted by a night vision goggle manufacturer or authorized instructor, when the pilot -

(A) Is employed by a Federal, State, county, or municipal law enforcement agency; and

(B) Has logged at least 20 hours as pilot in command in night vision goggle operations.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have a link to relevant CFR? $\endgroup$
    – Canuk
    Jan 2, 2018 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ 14 CFR §§61.31(k) $\endgroup$ Jan 2, 2018 at 20:24

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