What is the Night Vision Imaging System (NVIS)?

While flying during daylight hours allows pilots to use both visual references from outside the windshield and instrument readings to conduct standard operations, night flying can open up more complexity. When pilots need to rely on visuals from out of the windshield during night hours, they need to use a Night Vision Imaging System (NVIS). NVISs can be highly beneficial for increasing visibility, but they can also create safety hazards if the equipment is incompatible with the aircraft, hasn't been set up properly, or if flight crews are unable to operate such systems correctly. In this blog, we will discuss some of the common factors that affect the safety of NVIS use, allowing you to enact the proper measures during such operations.

Before procuring or operating NVIS equipment, it can be beneficial to be aware of the various terms and acronyms common to such systems. Regarding night flying, the FAA defines night as the hours between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight. Night vision goggles (NVG) are wearable equipment pieces common to NVIS, and they can amplify ambient light to allow better sight for the flight crew. Whenever a crew is operating by references due to certain weather conditions and times, Night Visual Flight Rules (NVFR) are followed. 

While NVIS can help pilots obtain more visibility in night hours, factors such as equipment failures, weather conditions, helicopter compatibility, and flight crew experience can all have an effect on safety. When procuring night vision goggles, such equipment pieces should always be certified to a minimum standard of TSO-C164. If the goggles are a model that was released after the TSO-C164 standard, then they must meet RTCA/DO-275 performance requirements. It is always crucial that one has battery powered goggles, and automatic supply changeovers or 30 minute battery warnings ensure that vision is not abruptly lost. With all crew members using the same model and having replacement equipment pieces present for emergencies, safety can be better maintained.

If one wishes to utilize night vision sight equipment for a helicopter, it is important that the particular model is either produced or modified to meet NVIS certification by an aviation authority such as the FAA. For such helicopters, two-pilots with dual control and IFR instruments must be present, and a steerable searchlight is required. With the addition of either a dual output radar altimeter or two independent radar altimeters alongside a Terrain Avoidance and Warning System (TAWS), pilots can better maintain safe altitudes and avoid obstructions during night flight.

Regardless of having the correct certifications and equipment, proper use is not guaranteed if crew members do not have the sufficient experience to handle such items. To meet safety standards, all flight crew members are required to have at least 50 hours of night unaided flight time with either VFR or IFR rules. Furthermore, the commander also has their own requirement of ten hours of logged pilot-in-command NVG flight time. Through proper training, flight crew members gain experience for working principles, vision at night, limitations, crew coordination, danger awareness, and much more. 

With the proper equipment, certifications, and training, flight crews can utilize the Night Vision Imaging System and its related equipment safely for increased night vision sight. At Veritable Aviation, we serve as a leading online distributor of aircraft parts, offering customers competitive pricing and rapid lead-times on all that we carry. We invite you to explore our expansive part and manufacturer catalogs where you may find over 2 billion new, used, and obsolete items currently available for purchase. If you find specific items that you would like to procure, you may begin the purchasing process at any time through the submission of an Instant RFQ form. Once received, a member of our staff will reach out to you in 15 minutes or less to provide a personalized quote based on your needs.


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