Logging time: What do I have to record?

March 11, 2013

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Kathy Yodice

Kathy Yodice

  • Attorney, Counsel to AOPA 
  • Former FAA attorney 
  • Has assisted AOPA members for more than 13 years 
  • Pilot since 1994, owns a Cherokee 180 

Someone asked me the other day about choosing a logbook. I looked around for the types of logbooks that were available and quickly became overwhelmed with the possibilities. There are logbooks with hard covers and with soft covers, pocket-size and notebook size, custom-made, every color imaginable, the bare minimum of columns and too many columns, pre-printed endorsements, and on and on the choices go. These choices are largely a matter of preference. The most important part of the logbook is the inside and your ability to log the information required by the regulations properly as well as to capture any original signatures that may be necessary. It prompted me to go back and refresh my knowledge of what exactly I must have in a logbook and what might otherwise be considered optional.

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I went to FAR 61.51, Pilot logbooks. That regulation sets out the minimum information that you must have in the logbook for training and aeronautical experience, pilot-in-command time, second-in-command time, solo time, instrument time, and night vision goggle time. It also sets out the aircraft requirements and how to log time in a simulator.

For many of us, the most important aspect of logging time is to demonstrate proficiency and currency and to be able to prove to our insurance company that we have logged a certain number of hours each year. We may also be interested in building time for an additional certificate or rating. The regulation sets out the information, at a minimum, of what to log for training and aeronautical experience. That is, the FARs say you must log date, flight time, departure and arrival airport(s), aircraft make and model and identification, and the name of the safety pilot, if required. You also need to log the type of pilot experience, such as PIC, and conditions of the flight, such as day, night, or instrument. For training, your logbook must be endorsed by an authorized instructor and include a description of the training given, the length of the lesson, and the instructor’s signature, certificate number, and certificate expiration date. Most logbooks are formatted to prompt you for this kind of information, but remember that it is your regulatory responsibility to log the information as required by the regulations.

When AOPA members enrolled in the AOPA Legal Services Plan/Pilot Protection Services call us during an FAA investigation, logbook entries can play an important role. An FAA inspector will typically want to check currency, endorsements, and the flight review, at a minimum. If these are not documented, the inspector could accuse you of flying an aircraft when you were not qualified.

My friend and I also share a habit of adding personal notes in our logbook. So we sought out a logbook that, first, allowed us to record the information as set out in the regulation and, second, also had the most room in the description column. But, be careful with those personal notes—the lawyer in me prompts a piece of cautionary advice against making a record of information that may inadvertently get you in trouble should the FAA have the occasion to review your logbook. And, just as you preflight the airplane, make sure you do a preflight of your paperwork to make sure your medical certificate is up to date and that your currency is documented.

To learn more about the Pilot Protection Services program, visit the website.

Kathy Yodice