Not enough room

January 6, 2012 by David Jack Kenny, Air Safety Institute

Yet again I wish the space for “Notes and Comments” in my logbook wasn’t so small. Printing the tiniest letters I can manage, there’s still barely room for the details I’m most likely to need later: route clearances, altitudes, and weather. Only a cryptic abbreviation might help identify this as the day I took two English setters to new homes. I doubt that 10 years from now, that will bring back everything that made these flights memorable.

Icing was a worry. The overcast wasn’t forecast to break up until after I hoped to be gone. I’d had to add a stop at Fayetteville, 90 miles beyond my original destination, so I wanted to be on my way. Ceilings were above 3,000 feet, so there was room to escape if clouds started sticking to the airplane.

Most of my time with Flight Service was spent discussing weather, but I did get a notams briefing. Good thing, too: Runway 6 / 24 at Person County, my second stop, was closed for paving and painting.

Whoops! Person County has exactly one runway. Landing on the taxiway might be frowned on, so a quick phone call was in order. We picked another field; then I called to amend my flight plans.

The clouds proved blessedly ice-free. They lasted just long enough to put a couple more tenths in the “Actual Instrument” column. Skies were clear before I reached the Virginia-North Carolina border.

Fayetteville was using Runway 4. The tower cleared me to land, adding “Winds are from three-three-zero at one-five gusting two-two.” Hello! It’s been a while since I landed in a real crosswind. It wasn’t pretty, but at least nothing broke.

Being more loyal than smart, I buy fuel at every stop. This turned out to be a good thing, because at the next airport nobody answered my unicom calls. The rescuers met me with the second dog.

Raylan before boarding his flight in North Carolina.

“We heard you on the radio, but didn’t know how to answer. There’s nobody here!” Sure enough, the FBO’s doors were open, but there was no sign of the staff. That meant no fuel–this field doesn’t offer self-service. Not good: The next leg was the longest, and winds would be 45 knots right on my nose. The route across West Virginia to Ohio crosses some awfully lonely country.

I launched with the four and a half hours’ supply I had left, planning to divert if the GPS-estimated flight time didn’t settle below 3:30 within the first two hours. It didn’t begin well. The wind produced mountain waves; at one point, pitched up at Vy approaching Roanoke, groundspeed dropped to 44 knots. But the waves dissipated as we reached the mountains and groundspeed inched up from 85 knots to 105 farther northwest. We landed in Columbus with 3:22 on the clock and an hour and a half’s worth of gas.

Boone meeting his new family in Ohio.

It was dark by the time I finished taking pictures and waved good-bye. The flight home was graced with a 30-knot tailwind. Mist gathering in mountain valleys looked like moonlight reflected from distant rivers.

Only when I tried to squeeze those 8.5 hours into two lines of my logbook did I realize that in one day, I’d seen a pretty good selection of the challenges we face in GA. I hadn’t suffered a mechanical failure or flown an instrument approach. But I had dealt with an airport closure, icing risk in IMC, three tricky crosswind landings, turbulence, mountain waves, brutal headwinds, loss of a planned fuel stop with the uncomfortably close planning that required, and solo single-engine flight over the mountains at night.

Not to mention live animals. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Tell us about your memorable flights in the “Comments” section!

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8 Responses to “Not enough room”

  1. Gary Moore Says:

    Just curious – why do you feel compelled to keep your logbook entry within the one line? Why not use multiple lines or the whole page for that matter? One of my early private students was quite the artist – he used an entire page for ‘each’ flight entry – long descriptions, pictures and drawings of the day – it was fantastic…..

  2. Sander Says:

    Nice flight David,
    unfortunately I didn’t experienced so memorable flight in my carrier, but a good one was my check flight (I can’t tell about it in my blog, so stay between us) where the rigth tire blew when I landing at the main runway of the Florianopolis’s International Airport, so I closed the airport for about 45 minutes, can you imagine? A cessna 152 closing an International Airport!

  3. David Jack Kenny Says:

    I like to keep my logbook entries terse. I guess it’s a mental habit dating back to my student pilot days, in which I wanted to accumulate the maximum number of hours per page. Anyway, even though it will take years to fill up the large book I use now, I like seeing each page fully utilized.

    I suppose I should keep an electronic version with unlimited space for comments, but, frankly, I’m just too lazy.

    Sander, closing an international airport for 45 minutes may even beat the stories of candidates who got sick during their checkrides!

    – DJK

  4. Don N. Hagist Says:

    Don’t feel compeled to stay inside the lines! It’s your logbook – use multiple lines to fill in as much information about each flight as you want to record – and remember! Years from now, it’ll be better to have several full logbooks that really tell stories than a single one that abbreviates all of the indivuality out of the experiences.

  5. Eric R Says:

    Great story David!

  6. Anne Says:

    I am a student pilot, my instructor started making more extensive notes in my log book after I began to list the landings I did all by myself and any thing else that we did, like stopping for lunch at some airport. It has become a wonderful diary covering my learning experience. Something I will never forget. So what ,if some flying days end up taking half a page in my log book,I don’t care, I”ll just buy a new log book when the old one gets filled, but I will have lots of great memories reading the old book. P.S She also draws happy faces in my log book on the really good days.

  7. Bonanza Babe Says:

    It only takes one engine-out to change one’s mind about single engine ops at night – if even that much…

  8. Ken Olsson Says:

    I don’t understand why constraining your written remarks to a small box outweighs the value of the written remarks themselves. One CFI I flew with printed tiny and kept his notes inside the box. Despite scanning my logbook pages at 1200 DPI and enlarging them substantially I can still decipher only about 70% of his entries. If logbook entries are to be useful (and legal?) they need to be legible. A standard ASA logbook lists for $6.95 and if you log two flights per page and you fly weekly that book will last well into next year. There’s no good reason for squeezing all your flight remarks into a little box.

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