Part 61 Night Currency – Solo or CFI

Question:  Looking for information that I can’t decipher from 61.57. I would like to get night current and the FAR clearly says that I can’t have passengers unless I am current. My question is, I have a friend who also has his PPL in the same AC type/category as well as instrument rated. Can he be a passenger since he is fully rated?

My Response:

The question before us is this: Does a pilot current in night takeoff and landing experience in an aircraft of the same category, class, and type (if a type rating is required) count as a passenger or as another pilot? According to 14 CFR § 61.51 – Pilot logbooks, the only type of pilot experience or training that can be logged is:

(2) Type of pilot experience or training –

(i) Solo.

(ii) Pilot in command.

(iii) Second in command.

(iv) Flight and ground training received from an authorized instructor.

(v) Training received in a full flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device from an authorized instructor.

14 CFR § 61.57 – Recent flight experience: Pilot in command does NOT say the pilot must fly solo. It only states they may not carry “passengers” until after they’ve met the recent flight experience requirements.

So, if the other pilot can lawfully log solo, PIC, SIC, or CFI time either in flight or simulator, then they are NOT a “passenger.”

Here’s where things fall apart:

Solo: How can the other pilot log solo time if the one regaining currency must be the person acting as sole manipulator of the flight controls? Yeah… So, that’s out.

PIC: Same argument for solo. The one at the controls is PIC, so the other pilot can’t log PIC time.

SIC: Aha! Or is it? What, exactly, is a SIC? “Second in command means a pilot who is designated to be second in command of an aircraft during flight time.” – 14 CFR § 1.1 – General definitions. So, the one regaining night currency can just designate the other pilot who is night current in the same category, class and type (if a type rating is required) aircraft, right?

Well, let’s find out: 14 CFR § 61.55 – Second-in-command qualifications: “(a) A person may serve as a second-in-command of an aircraft type certificated for more than one required pilot flight crewmember or in operations requiring a second-in-command pilot flight crewmember only if that person holds:

(1) At least a private pilot certificate with the appropriate category and class rating; and

(2) An instrument rating or privilege that applies to the aircraft being flown if the flight is under IFR; and

(3) At least a pilot type rating for the aircraft being flown unless the flight will be conducted as domestic flight operations within the United States airspace.”

Is a Cessna 150 “type certificated for more than one REQUIRED pilot flight crewmember?”

No, it is not.

Does regaining night currency constitute “operations requiring a second-in-command pilot flight crewmember?”

Lol, I wish, but no, that doesn’t meet the requirement, either.

Thus, you’re back to (iv) and (v): CFI.

If your buddy is a CFI and lawfully acting as a CFI, then he’s not a passenger.

However, no matter how well-qualified or current another pilot might be, they do not meet SIC requirements in any aircraft where two pilots are not required.

Thus, it’s either regain your night currency solo or regain it with a CFI.

As for whoever mentioned a “safety pilot,” sorry, but wrong topic. It simply — absolutely — does not apply to regaining 14 CFR § 61.57 – Recent flight experience: Pilot in command (b) Night takeoff and landing experience.

Naturally, there’s always an exception, and here are the FAA’s exceptions for COVID-19:
Updated: March 17, 2021 — 7:59 pm