Lost Logbooks

This past week, one of my students, Jo, asked about the problem. After I told her the solution, she asked, “Why didn’t you tell the class?” I usually do, but at the point in the course when I usually talk about flight logs, Hurricane Matthew hit, altering many things. Now for the benefit of many, here is how you should manage your flight time.

The bane of pilots and aircraft owners is the lost logbook. Airplane logs are lost in many ways, but most of the time when it comes to a pilot’s personal flight log, theft or misplacement by the pilot is usually the cause. If the pilot is lucky and the cause is the latter, maybe the logbook will turn up. If it is the former, well…, good luck with that. Now the pilot has to do their best to recreate their flight time. This is a task not so easily done.

First, I recommend keeping two copies of your logs. Back in the “old days” when it regularly snowed in Florida in July, I kept a small student logbook in my back pocket while I was flight instructing. After a flight, I would debrief the student and log the flight in the small logbook. Later, every week or so, I would sit down and neatly transcribe the contents into my master logbook. This naturally gave me two copies of my flight time.

The process was a little cumbersome, but I never worried about losing my flight time. Today, flight instructors and professional pilots have so many more options.

With the smartphones of today, you can literally photocopy your log page by page and create a PDF copy of your logbook. There are also other commercially available electronic logbooks that perform well at a reasonable price.

The problem of theft is something else altogether. Occasionally, a student will report a break-in to their car or apartment and one of the items stolen is their flight bag. In those old days I mentioned before, a typical flight bag only contained a bunch of textbooks; today, flight bags usually hold headsets, iPads with Foreflight, and the pilot’s logbook.

Here is what I will say about pilots keeping their logbook with them all the time. Not necessary. I understand it for a dual period, but that is the only time a logbook should leave the safety of the house. Many young pilots are under the impression they must carry their logs all the time they are flying. Not so.

If you are keeping your log in your flight bag all the time and someone steals it, not only do you lose all your gear, but you also lose the record of your time and in the case of your first logbook, all your endorsements.

The question now becomes – how do you recreate all that history? Is there an official record of your flight time?

Yes, there is. At your last flight physical, you had to report your flight time on an official FAA form. That is a permanent record. Of course, if your last medical exam was 10 months ago, you are going to have to figure out how to recreate the time since.

Here is a better idea.

Take your logbook down to Office Depot, Kinko’s, or other company where they have photocopy machines and notaries on staff. Create photocopies of your endorsements and the last page of your flight time. Have the notary certify it is a true copy and put a couple of those copies in a very safe place. Every two weeks or month or so, photocopy the last page of your log so you have a record of your most recent flight time.

Here is another important thing about keeping your flight gear safe – always stow it in the trunk of your car, out of sight. If it is visible on the back seat, it might be too much of a temptation to a crook passing by.


©2016 J. Clark

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