Pilots can log their hours in either a hard copy logbook or an electronic equivalent. Each has its pros and cons.
With a hard copy logbook, the record is relatively permanent, subject neither to power demands nor to data glitches. They’re easy for instructors to add endorsements to and can be handed over during any interview and easily followed.
Electronic logbooks on the other hand have a precision that might be lacking in hard copy logbooks in terms of hours of flight time that should be logged.
The FAA requires pilots to log every flight that is used towards the requirements for certificates, ratings, flight reviews, or instrument proficiency checks. That does not necessarily include all flights made, but a rigorously maintained logbook is useful for the removal of doubt or question.
The details that pilots will log for any entry include their position on the flight – Pilot-in-Command (PIC), Second-in-Command (SIC), etc, the date of the flight, its total duration, and the locations of any takeoff and landing points – as these are often used to prove a pilot is within compliance for their license or rating.
Are electronic pilot logbooks legal?
Yes, electronic logbooks are entirely legal. The FAA does not have a specific rule on the format in which a logbook is maintained, merely that one be maintained that ‘satisfies the Administration.’
That has allowed quite a healthy market in electronic logbook hardware and software to develop, though technically, you could use something as universal as an Excel spreadsheet to electronically log your flight hours, and it would be acceptable to the Administration.
There are a wide variety of electronic logbook apps available, each with their own features. Some pull data from instrument sources, some allow you to update your records by uploading files in a wide variety of file types, like TXT, PDF, or CSV.
At least for now, the option exists with many electronic logbook apps to send the data across to specialized logbook publishers, and so get the ease of use that comes with electronic flight time logging, matched with the hard copy practicality of a standard logbook.
It’s also worth noting that a lot of electronic logbook apps have a range of additional features you can use, and are backed up by the likes of Youtube tutorials, to make sure you never go wrong in logging your flight time.
On the other hand, some such electronic logbook apps start out free and charge you a subscription fee once you’ve logged over, for instance, 250 hours of flight time. With a hard copy logbook, you pay just the once.
How do you fill out a pilot logbook?
You fill in a pilot logbook with the following information:
- Flight position – whether you flew as Pilot-in-Command, Second-in-Command, etc;
- Date of the flight;
- Total duration of the flight;
All takeoff and landing locations – these are used not only to identify the flight you made, but also to certify that you made such takeoffs and landings within a time period that maintains the currency of your license or rating.
This is the mandatory information that needs to be in a logbook to satisfy the FAA. Any additional information you want to record about the flight is fine if you find it useful, but is very much secondary in terms of identifying, quantifying, and recording your flight.
You are generally held responsible for making sure the plane you fly is in sufficiently good working order to complete the flight, so any details of the plane number, its fuel levels, and any or all potential damage at the start and the finish of your flight might be useful in terms of asserting (for instance) that non-serious damage existed prior to your flight.
Similarly, any navigation information that plots the flight from A-B would be additional information. You would not need to record it for the purposes of the FAA, but it would be useful for any instructor or examiner to observe the precise plotting of your flight between its takeoff and landing locations.
What is the best pilot logbook?
Technically, the best pilot logbook is the one that lets you complete your logging in the fastest time, with the least fuss, and in as much detail as the FAA needs and you want.
There are any number of logbooks on the market, both hard copy and electronic. In terms of the electronic versions, there’s nothing to stop you from downloading several as they’re usually free, and testing out the ones which have the best functionality for you.
In terms of hard copy logbooks, there are versions that, for instance, are targeted at student pilots, general aviation pilots, commercial pilots, etc. Anything which is targeted at the type of flying you intend to do will probably be best suited to you, at least in the short term, as manufacturers will have thought through the information you need to provide, and the easiest, clearest way of giving it, so that it can be examined as and when necessary.