Logbooks: what exactly are they for?

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We all have them but what do we use logbooks for? The obvious answer is to record our compliance with the rules and regulations. For example, have we done enough instrument approaches in the last six months or do we have enough solo hours to take our commercial check ride?

After ten years and nearly 800 hours of flying, I’m coming to the end of my first log book.

When you think about it, saying that your logbook is just paperwork is like saying that your wedding ring is just a fashion accessory.

As I look back over the record of ten years’ flying, it makes me think that logbooks are more important than that. They do a lot more than record compliance:

  • Names and faces. It helps me remember Tim Harvey my first instructor.
  • Milestones. My first qualifying cross country, my first solo and “Satisfactory PL(S) requirements satisfied” which is the bureaucrats way of saying ‘you’re a pilot now’.
  • Moments. The flight in NASA’s Space Shuttle simulator when I was a tech journalist (the remarks say: “One abort RTLS. Two approaches KSC RWY 15.”), that test flight in a PC-12 over the Alps or the flight to Old Warden with two WWII veterans.
  • Friends and family. I took Ellie to the Isle of White, Claire to Stratford, Tim to Exeter.
  • Weather. “TCUs after lunch”, “Sun in Haze”, 132 hours in real or simulated IMC.
  • Exploration. All those trips to Holland to practice my Dutch. Flights to Germany, France, Belgium, Scotland and Ireland. Going out of my comfort zone.
  • Learning. It really is a licence to learn. My log book records all the crazy new things my instructors tried to get me to do: “NDB tracking”, “holds”, “Chandelles”, “8s on pylons” and all those new systems to learn on the Garmin Perspective, Avidyne R9 etc.
  • Lots of lunches. I think I can account for the extra pounds I gained in the last ten years by looking at all the restaurants I have visited.

If my log book is my best index to all those memories and significant moments, why is the ‘remarks’ section so small. In 150 years’ time when I am (just) too old to fly, my log book will be all I have to remind me of all those hours in the air and my overriding thought will be ‘did I have tiny handwriting?’


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About the author
Matthew Stibbe is CEO of Articulate Marketing and Turbine, the easy, online way to deal with office paperwork. He writes the Bad Language blog and the Forbes Aviator column. He has a CPL/IR and flies a Cirrus SR-22.

4 Replies to Logbooks: what exactly are they for?

  1. Kurt Wheaton says:

    I particularly love this post, Matthew. I never did get far with my aviation career, due to a medical history glitch, but I like to look back over my logbook every now and then and reminisce. Now, my grandfather was a different story. He kept all his logbooks from 1916, along with a few thousand photos of his flying career! I’m piecing them all together, slowly but surely. They really are a journal of his flying life.

  2. Daniel says:

    Its common thinking about logbooks, more experienced pilots know whats the purpose of it, while younger don’t like to use them, and when you check theirs its always empty without pireps or anything.

  3. Gary Moore says:

    One of the things I always tell my students is that it’s THEIR log book and they can put whatever they want in it. Also – you don’t have to be restricted to one line and that tiny remarks sections. One of the most interesting logbooks I ever saw was from a fellow who used one PAGE per entry rather than one line – writing very descriptive prose about his flight and drawing fascinating sketches about the flight….

  4. Martin says:

    The problem with most younger pilots is that they will over log. Logging all kinds of hours, some even Parker their time. When it comes to a simulator evaluation, these guys get caught very quickly and most are embarrassed when they get asked if they really have the time they claim they have…

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