Logbooks are great. More than a tally of flight hours, the logbook is a sort of journal -- a chronicle of the places we've been and challenges faced. Even now, after fifteen years of flying, I can turn to a page in an old logbook and relive each flight.
Most flight schools start their students with the small ASA or Jeppesen logbook, and it works pretty well for normal private pilot training. But as experience grows, that old logbook becomes increasingly inadequate.
The problem lies in the FAA's 8710 form. That's the paperwork that all pilots must fill out when applying for a new certificate, and it's a way for the FAA office-workers to verify that you do meet the flight time requirements for that certificate.
Unfortunately, the standard logbook format doesn't keep track of everything that an 8710 form wants to know! Just take a look at that page from my first logbook. It's got all the columns that your book probably has, but it's actually missing some vital information that the FAA will want to know.
Now take a peek at the "Record of Pilot Time" section of the 8710 form.
They want to know everything in your logbook, and then a little more. For airplane pilots, the key gotcha's are:
- Solo & Cross Country Solo time - This is not necessarily the same as PIC. In my old logbooks, I chose to subscript an 'S' under PIC time to denote solo flights for this purpose.
- Night Takeoff and Landings - In every logbook I've seen, there is only a column for landings. I follow the convention of circling the number if it's a night landing. In my big professional-pilot logbooks, there's enough room for me to maintain two columns, which makes it easier to track.
- Simulator vs. PCATD vs. Flight Training Device - Notice that the logbook only has a single column for flight simulator time, but the FAA makes a big distinction between the three types of approved sims. It's a good idea to write the type of simulator in the remarks section to keep this stuff straight.
Glider pilots have even more things to keep track of, like aero-tows, ground launches and powered launches. Of course, all of these issues can be taken care of quite easily by using digital logbooks, most of which can scan your totals and generate an 8710 form on-the-fly. The two big brands are Logten (popular among Mac and iPhone users) and Logbook Pro. They aren't quite as nostalgic as a book full of hand-written flights, but they are more efficient and are easier to backup.
Whatever you choose to do with your logbook, it's important to remain consistent and always keep it tidy. You know, adhere to the old "measure twice, cut once" philosophy. Have fun filling out those 8710's!