The FAA loves numbers. Forty hours of total flight time required. Ten night takeoffs and landings. Three takeoffs and landings every 90 days. Runway numbers. ATIS transmission times. Weight and balance, center of gravity and moments.
Although some of these numbers may seem pointless, or at the very least confusing, your responsibility is to ensure your numbers add up. They can’t be close, or in the ball park. One plus one must equal two. There are three places where pilots really need to pay attention to their numbers. The first, and most obvious, is the logbook, which we blogged about here. From the time you first put pen to green paper, you need to check and double check your math. More than one pilot has been tripped up by not having enough fingers to add, and showing up for a checkride with insufficient training or solo times in his logbooks. Day time plus night time should equal total time. Single engine plus multiengine time should equal total time, as should land plus sea. How you decide to do your tenths rounding is up to you, but use a calculator for actual tabulations. I had one student whose first CFI didn’t use tenths, and we pulled our hair out re-doing the math and the conversions to make sure his times were accurate. It was unnecessarily time-consuming. The regs are very clear on the various hourly requirements, and the process should be elegantly simple.
The second place where pilots need to ensure accuracy is on their Form 8710, the FAA form that you must fill out prior to any FAA-required checkride. The grid at the bottom of the sheet is designed to capture the requirements of a number of certificates and ratings, and as such is not the most logical, nor is it the easiest to use. Many of the blocks you may only use once, and few you may never need at all. But, when the examiner looks at it, what he sees on the form should jive with what’s in your logbook. The 8710 is an official federal form—it must be if it is known by the numbers alone, and not the title (it’s an Application, which means it can be rejected)—and as such you have to sign it. Bad things happen to people who fudge federal documents, so it has the potential to come back and bite you, but it is also a useable means to start over if something happens to your logs. If you are planning on doing a lot of training or taking a lot of checkrides, make copies of the 8710s as you fill them out, and use them as a crosscheck against your logs. If in doubt about what really needs to be filled in, ask the examiner. Do this before the actual checkride.
Last, but by no means least, is your medical application form. Although you don’t actually fill in the numbers for pulse, blood-pressure, weight, and other criteria, you do have control over those numbers. Others, like recent flight experience, you fill in yourself. Either make a point of using your previous applications as a reference when you go for your medical, or write down the appropriate data from your logbook. AOPA has a nice reference document called TurboMedical that allows you to complete the medical application before visiting the doctor. It flags potential issues, which can save you lots of trouble. I wish that had been available the day I went to get my medical, and inadvertently transposed two digits. The doctor then asked me how my total flight time had gone down almost 100 hours in the last six months.
What could I say? That just didn’t add up.