Thursday, November 05, 2015

Logbook Strategy

I finally got my logbook up-to-date, every flight entered, every page totalled, grand total calculated. Each line represents one flight, and includes the date, aircraft type, aircraft registration, point of origin, destination, crew, and duration of the flight. There's also a remarks field which I sometimes use to include information like "annual review," "hit an eagle at rotation," "picking up new airplane," or "ferry permit with u/s flaps." Long ago I used to write my first initial and full last name in the pilot in command or copilot field, as appropriate, but that got tiring and sometime over the last couple of logbooks ago I switched to "self" and then "me," with the other crewmembers reduced to initials after the first few entries with their complete names.

The duration blank for each flight is not a single column, but eighteen columns, the whole facing page, in all appropriate combinations of single- and multi-engine time, night and day, pilot-in-command, dual instruction, and copilot, plus additional columns to record time in instrument meteorological conditions (clouds), simulated IMC, and in a flight simulator. For the last seven years I have used two columns: multi-engine day PIC and multi-engine night PIC. I'm even pilot-in-command for my annual training flights, because we hire outside experts who aren't ensured on our aircraft. So on every page I complete there are only two columns I need to total, multi-PIC-day and multi-PIC-night. I sometimes fill in numbers for IMC, or landings, but long, long ago stopped totalling them. There are a even a couple of do-it-yourself columns in which I sometimes track time on floats, turbine vs. piston or tailwheel. I tried to persuade myself to stop carrying forward the times in the columns other than the two that actually get updated every page, unless for some reason I flew a single-engine aircraft or acted as co-pilot, but despite being lazy enough not to update my logbook for three years, once I started updating, I felt obligated to carry those stupid numbers forward, page after page. According to the numbers, at some point in my career I acted as a copilot at night. I can't even think when that was, as the two-crew aircraft in which I logged my copilot time was a day-only operation. I think I must have been acting as co-pilot for new captain. But I'm copying forward that 2.0 every time I turn the page. Also the 13.1 night dual single engine. I have this minor fantasy of renting a single-engine aircraft and flying just long enough, day, night, PIC, and dual, in order to bring all my logged hours up to even numbers. The trickiest part about copying the numbers forward though, is making them fit in the boxes.

Both my single- and multi-engine daytime hours extend to five digits, including the one after the decimal point, and the boxes allocated for the totals are not very big. There are a few possible strategies for coping with this. I generally used a fine-tipped pen and very small printing, but depending on how many 4s, 6s and other digits that don't compress well there are in the total, sometimes I combine this with writing the number diagonally from corner to corner of the tiny box, or writing the decimal point and final digit on a second line. Sometimes I just give up and write the total in the bottom margin, with an arrow pointing into the box it should occupy. I suspect most of you with this kind of time don't bother keeping a personal logbook at all, just hand the paperwork that shows you're legal into company, and then at medical time just add what you've flown in the past year onto whatever total you gave the year before. That's what I've done for the last three years. The real timekeepers among you will be using an electronic logbook that, at a couple of button presses, can extract all your multi-engine turbine time flown on a Tuesday. But I can't be the lone holdout Luddite enough to be still using paper logbooks, but having trouble fitting the big numbers on the page. What's your preferred strategy?

7 comments:

Dave said...

I'm not a pilot (apart from thousands of desktop sim hours over 30 years!) but I am a software developer and my strategy would be to open a spreadsheet in the 'cloud' (how appropriate!) somewhere like Google docs and fill in the numbers there, then for the sake of signatures etc. print it out...

A quick search revealed a few plausible examples like this....

(This makes me wish I'd done it for my simulator time now... sure it's only a sim but 'flying' around the world in Beech Baron fiddling with fuel mix and prop pitch in a 'headwind' over the 'Atlantic' is real geek fun!)

Doug Sinclair said...

Out of curiosity, when you do log IMC time how do you do it? Do you actually make notes of when you enter and leave cloud? Or do you just log all IFR time?

I'm a casual IFR pilot, and I'm never quite sure what the right way is for me to log currency. So far I have tended to log the entire air time of any IFR flight that encounters IMC at least once.

Tim Broadwater said...

I'm just glad I'm not the only one that gets three years behind on their logbook. One of these days I'll get it caught up with a fine tipped pen and filling in boxes on the diagonal.

Mark Zacharias said...

What were you filling it in from? As a low time PPL I don't have issues with the sizing and I currently log my time in my log book after each flight. When I get home I transfer it to a google drive spreadsheet.

Mark Zacharias said...

What were you filling it in from? As a low time PPL I don't have issues with the sizing and I currently log my time in my log book after each flight. When I get home I transfer it to a google drive spreadsheet.

Garrett said...

54 flights in, I do not have this problem. LOL. I did recently hear of a student whose logbook was eaten by the dog, so I now attempt to take photos of each page as it is finished, as this photo will find its way to the cloud from the phone.

Aviatrix said...

Lots of questions in the comments here, so let me answer:
I know there exist electronic logbooks, and they can be coded in such a way that they are considered legal records. I'm on my third paper one, but the technology of filling it in is exactly the same as when I started, and hasn't changed since Bessie Coleman filled in hers. I am confident that people will still be able to operate the technology in the year 2100. If I had started flying with an electronic logbook it would have run on raw DOS, and then been exported as a CSV file to something running Windows 2000. When I interviewed with airlines I would have had to bring in either my battered laptop or a printout stack, instead of my pile of logbooks. One thing a stack of original paper logbooks shows in an interview is that you can keep it together, write legibly, control your pets, not set your immediate environment on fire, and avoid spilling coffee on important documents. These are all good qualities in a pilot, and a way of showing an employer that you will keep their paperwork to the required standard. If a pilot doesn't keep a good personal logbook, how can I trust her to maintain the aircraft logbook and submit her duty record in a timely fashion? So yup, "go electronic" would solve the little boxes problem, but at the cost of accessibility.

IMC time is supposed to be logged as time actually spent in IMC but no one in their right mind records when they enter and leave it. I fill that column out occasionally, on a flight with a lot of IMC, just enough to show currency.

I have flown for the same company all that time, so I sat upstairs by the shelf of old aircraft logbooks and just copied the flights over. I was lucky we hadn't sold a plane during that period.

Once upon a time, before digital cameras were a consumer item, I used to scan my logbook and save the pages to CD ROMs that I believe are still in a safety deposit box.