"Unable" to comply (with ATC)

C172 — N66213— Tamiami > Opa Locka (second leg) — Night ops, Pilotage, Radio Nav, night Landing, Night Airport Ops — 0.7 hrs

Important word to remember and use when appropriate. It's the Pilot in Command's right to use in a situation where safety dictates. Just feels to a student pilot, that one must comply with any direction from ATC... Unless unable.

On the way in to this, the second leg of this hop-skip-and-jump night flight, and my instructor had me make a good call; Unable.

We were in the pattern on Downwind, and although we had the right of way, the tower controller wanted us to swing in quick in front of an incoming plane, for whatever reason, instead of extend our Downwind leg. Way too tight for normal tolerance from what I thought, and my instructor agreed.

During the day for even this abrupt maneuver would have been ok, but at night practicing night landing and taxi back operations, that's not cool.

So we called in: "Unable." At first the controller didn't expect us to refuse his direction, but we reiterated "Unable to comply. Can we extend our Downwind?" to which he conceded.

A valuable lesson as a good call for safety, and to exercise my right as Pilot in Command if I ever need to.