How to Fill in Your Pilot Logbook
If you’ve just started to fly, the pristine pilot logbook can appear rather daunting; if you’re an experienced aviator, its earmarked pages can look a little messy. The problem shared by both parties, more often than not, is that the many acronyms and intricacies of logging flying hours aren’t fully explained, which is a real problem given that the flying logbook is crucial in keeping you and your license on the right side of the law.
Starting to sound serious? Well, it is – it is within the remit of the CAA to issue a fine or even suspend your license if your logbook isn’t filled out correctly. Now there’s the bad news. The good news? It’s not half as complicated as it first appears to fill it in correctly.
A matter of timing: Logging hours
If you are starting a new pilot logbook, one of the first things to consider is how you want to record your hours: either in hours and minutes or decimals. Both methods have their advantages.
Recording in hours and minutes makes the initial entry very easy, e.g. a flight of 1 hour 35 minutes is simply entered as 1:35. However, it makes the totaling up of each page slightly more difficult. (That is unless, of course, you have a scientific calculator.)
Recording in decimals will see you reaching for a calculator more frequently for entries in your logbook, with the minutes having to be converted into hundredths, e.g. a flight of 1 hour 35 minutes becomes 1.58, or 1.6 depending on how many decimal places you want to employ (most sources suggest two). But it does make the totaling up at the end of each page much easier.
Decimals or minutes decided, the question now is what counts as flight time?
Part-FCL defines it thus “Flight time is recorded: (1) for aeroplanes, touring motor gliders and powered-lift aircraft, from the moment an aircraft first moves to taking off until the moment it finally comes to rest at the end of the flight.”
During my PPL, I interpreted this as meaning from brakes off for the take-off roll to engine shut down. I have since been assured by many CFIs that it is in fact, legal to log the time from brakes off on the apron. It might not seem like a big distinction, but if you are flying from a large or busy airfield, the taxi time can soon add up.
To PIC or not to PIC: Operating capacity
Hours thus defined, the question now is how to categorise them? P1, P2, P/UT, PICUS; the acronyms are seemingly unending, and this is the source of most logbook errors. There are two types of time: command time and dual time, and there are several sub-categories within these two categories.
P1 or command time:
This is probably the most abused of all the acronyms, as pilots are keen to rack up command time. But it is important for insurance and licensing reasons that you get it right. So when exactly can you log a flight as PIC?
Referring once again to Part-FCL: “The applicant for or the holder of a pilot licence may log as pilot-in-command time all solo flight time, flight time as student pilot-in-command and flight time under supervision provided that such SPIC time and flight time under supervision are countersigned by the instructor. Crediting of SPIC is restricted to students of integrated training courses only.”
Therefore, if you are a modular student undertaking a course of training, PIC time is restricted to those hours you are in the aircraft solo. Lessons, therefore, must all be logged as P/UT (a designation that I will go on to explain later on in this piece).
But what about if you are building hours or flying for fun? Then, the pilot-in-command is defined as the designated commander of the aircraft. They may be the least experienced pilot in the aircraft but, provided they have the relevant licenses and ratings for the aircraft and flight type, they may still be nominated as pilot-in-command.
What this means therefore is that you may fly with an instructor, but if you are qualified to fly the aircraft and not receiving instruction, you may be nominated as pilot-in-command thus logging the hours as such.
The essential thing to remember is, that only one person can log the hours as P1. And, as the pilot-in-command is responsible for ensuring the safe operation of the flight at all times, they must also be the one who signs the aircraft technical log.
There is another acronym, PICUS (pilot-in-command under supervision), which is the subject of much confusion. Once more turning to our good friend Part-FCL, PICUS is defined as either: “A co-pilot performing, under the supervision of the pilot-in-command, the duties and functions of a pilot-in-command.” Or “Pilot undergoing any form of flight test with a EASA or CAA Authorised Examiner”.
So, if you’ve successfully passed a skills test, you can log the hours in the P1 column as PICUS.
The first scenario is essentially moot, unless you are flying multi-crew aircraft, as it is stated that this designation may only be used by “a co-pilot acting as PICUS on an aircraft on which more than one pilot is required under the type certification of the aircraft or as required by operational requirements… provided that such PICUS time is countersigned by the PIC.”
Part-FCL further stipulates that “Flight time as PICUS… will only be allowable for the holder of a PPL subject to the terms of a prior agreement with the CAA.”
The SPIC designation is only permitted for use by integrated students, under certain conditions of flight, so in this article we won’t go into the details.
P2 or dual time:
So, there are two pilots in the aircraft. One is logging the time as PIC, the other as co-pilot, right? Wrong. In the UK, co-pilot time can rarely be logged by general aviators, its use being limited to those operating aircraft required to have two pilots.
(There is a different rule under FAA licencing in the US, and this may be the source of confusion for pilots. But, it is important to remember, even if you are flying in the US, if you have an EASA license, you must log your hours under EASA rules!)
Let’s look at Part-FCL for clarification: “A pilot claiming flying hours as co-pilot towards meeting the overall flying experience requirements for a licence… will only be credited with that flight time if holding an appropriate licence to perform co-pilot duties, and if: a) the flight was conducted in an aircraft required by its Certificate of Airworthiness, or by Article 25 (3) of the Air Navigation Order 2009, to carry a crew of not less than two pilots; or b) the flight was conducted by an AOC holder choosing to operate a particular aircraft as a two pilot operation…”
There are two other scenarios when you can log co-pilot time: when flying military aircraft and with prior agreement with the CAA. So if you feel strongly about the matter you can always put pen to paper.
Finally, we’re on more stable ground. The pilot-under-training designation can be used when you are receiving training of any nature. It is classed as dual time, and as such must be logged under the respective dual time column.
Calling it a day: Operational conditions
There are a couple of other flight hour columns that are worth mentioning, which designate specific operational conditions.
The Standardised European Rules of the Air (SERA), which sought to consolidated rules across the EU, now supersedes the UK Rules of the Air Regulations, which previously defined night as “The time from half an hour after sunset until half an hour before sunrise, sunset and sunrise being determined at surface level.”
Now, SIRA defines night as “the hours between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight”. A far more straightforward definition if you ask me!
Instrument flight time is quite simply (something, simple, finally!) defined by Part-FCL as “The time during which a pilot is controlling an aircraft in flight solely by reference to instruments.” This means that time can be logged as such regardless of whether in actual or simulated instrument meteorological conditions.
Some logbooks have a column for other flying. This is the space where you can log hours that won’t count towards your recency or license, such as hours flown in a single-pilot aircraft with another pilot nominated as PIC. Just remember when you are totaling up your hours, these aren’t included in your total time!
What’s in a name?: Aircraft type, departure aerodrome and destination aerodrome
Even if you are just flying for fun, remember that the CAA may ask for your logbook at anytime, therefore it is important that you follow CAA conventions, and that includes using ICAO designators. When filling out aircraft type, departure aerodrome and destination aerodrome, use their ICAO designators, e.g. C152 rather than Cessna 152, EGSJ rather than Seething Airfield.
Not sure what the aircraft designator is? You can search for it here: http://www.icao.int/publications/DOC8643/Pages/Search.aspx
Not sure what the aircraft designator is? Look on your chart!
Two of a kind, hopefully: Takeoffs and landings
Logging take offs and landings is important so that you can check if you meet recency requirements; most of which specify a certain number of take-offs and landings in the preceding 90 days. There is nothing about this section of the logbook in Part-FCL, therefore it is not specified whether a landing must be a full stop or whether it can be a touch-and-go.
The overwhelming opinion is, that a touch-and-go counts as one take-off and one landing. After all, you have done exactly that. Low passes and missed approaches, for obvious reasons, don’t count.
This is the section of the logbook that is yours to do with what you wish. If you are undertaking a lesson, it is advisable to use this section to record the exercise numbers completed during the flight. This is good both for your own reference and for the CAA’s when they check your logbook before issuing the license.
Other details you might include are weather, flight routings, passengers and any incidents that occurred during the flight. If you have no intentions to fly commercially, you can be a bit more free-and-easy with this section. Still, keep it relevant – unless, of course, it was a particularly good airfield café!
If, on the other hand, you have commercial aspirations keep in mind that you will be taking this logbook to future interviews, and I’d recommend keeping remarks to the above mentioned subjects.
Note: Statements were correct at time of writing (18/03/2016), however, rules and regulations do change. It is your responsibility as a pilot to keep up-to-date with any changes!