When I first started my private pilot training in 1997, I immediately wanted to track my flights electronically. Back then it was almost unheard of and very few options were available, so I set out to create the original version of Pilot Partner. At first it was just a down and dirty database for myself to use, but when my CFI looked at what I had created he suggested that I finish it up and sell it. Pilot Partner was born. The original version sold 2,500+ copies between 1997 and 2000.
Back in 1997 my paper logbook was still my primary record for my flying and my electronic pilot logbook was only used to enhance my logging experience. As we roll into 2016, the landscape is changing and my electronic logbook is quickly becoming my primary record source. When I fly, I log my flight immediately on my iPhone (it takes less than 60 seconds). I still keep a paper logbook, but I only update it once every couple of months or right before I do a flight with a flight instructor. But soon, I think I will be able to get rid of my paper logbook altogether.
Pilots Still On Paper
I talk to a lot of pilots at different gatherings and events. What amazes me is how many pilots are still 100% on paper. As the FAA makes the currency requirements more and more complex, how can you keep track? Filling out an FAA 8710 Form (Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application) isn’t too bad with a paper logbook. But have you ever had to provide detailed information to an insurance company or on a job application? Accurately filling out these forms using only your paper logbook can take several hours of research.
Why is it that a lot of pilots haven’t made the jump to Electronic Logbooks?
- Some pilots just don’t know
- Lots of pilots are afraid of having to enter years worth of flying into an eLog
- Some don’t really log at all
Starting an Electronic Logbook
It can be very intimidating to start using an electronic pilot logbook if you’ve been flying
for many years. You might have 50 to 100 pages of flights and you’re envisioning yourself sitting at the keyboard for weeks entering it all into the computer.
My advice to all pilots still using a paper logbook:
Put down the shovel and stop digging the hole deeper. Start by logging your next flight electronically and worry about your past flights later.
Pilot Partner has a tool called Carry-In-Totals that allows you to enter the totals you currently have in your logbook for categories like: Total Time, SEL, MEL, Cross Country, IMC, PIC, etc. You can even add totals for specific Aircraft types, etc.
Using Carry In Totals
If you are the type who likes to wear more than 15 pieces of flair, you may want to take it one step further. Instead of starting with your next flight in Pilot Partner, look back at your logbook and determine how far back you have to go to account for your currency. Since carry In totals are not used to calculate your currency, entering the flights that make you FAA current is a worthwhile task. Most pilots you are worried about day/night passenger currency and perhaps Instrument Currency. Typically you only have to go back 1 to 2 pages in your logbook.
Determine which page of your logbook you want to start with (typically 1 to 2 pages back) and enter all of the flights from the start of the page to the end of your logbook. This should take you 15-20 minutes at the most.
Look at the totals carried forward in your logbook for the page you started on and enter those totals into Pilot Partner’s Carry-In-Totals. Now when you log your new flights, your flight totals will be accurate.
Importing your Flights
Eventually, you will want to get all of your flights into your Electronic Pilot Logbook. The best way is to do an import. Perhaps you have some or all of your flights in another eLog, or you only have a paper logbook. Either way, Excel is the way to go. Pilot Partner will import from an excel sheet. Watch the How To Import Your Logbook Video for more details.
If you only have a Paper Logbook, spend the time converting it to an Excel spreadsheet then import it to Pilot Partner. It will be much quicker than entering flights one by one into Pilot Partner. You can download a Blank Template to make things easier.
Making the Most out of your eLog
Now that you have spent the time to get started with an Electronic Pilot Logbook, what can you expect and how should you use it?
FAA Flight Currency
Always knowing your flight currency is the number one reason to use an electronic logbook. In Pilot Partner we show you how many days you have left of currency which helps you plan your flights accordingly. It is nice to know that if you throw in one extra night landing on your next flight, it will extend your currency for another month. Also, don’t let those Flight Review and Medicals sneak up on you. There is something nice and rewarding about watching your currency jump from 10 days to being expired to 90 days left after logging a single flight.
You can even create custom currency items. For example, a plane I flew a lot was a Cessna Cardinal RG (N8035G). Our insurance company required us to have 3 hours every 180 days in Make/Model. In addition to the FAA Required Day/Night Passenger currency, I set Pilot Partner up to track my Cardinal currency.
Your Paper logbook is decent at tracking the required flight totals such as:
- Total Time
- Cross Country
But there are so many other totals to track. Granted, I am a data guy and I really geek out on numbers. But with Pilot Partner I like to know things like: How many hours have I flown in N8035G on a cross country. Now that is not a super useful number to track for FAA reasons, but I like to look at my data that way. But how about a real world example: How many hours with a CFI in N8035G have I flown in order to meet insurance initial PIC requirements?
Flight training is another great example of flight totals. You can setup specific flight totals in your logbook that will track your Cross Country Time, Hood Time, Night Time and other FAA requirements. I always find it more motivating to see a status bar moving across the screen as I add flights to my logbook.
Track Custom Items
As I mentioned above, I am a data guy and I like to track all kinds of crazy things for my own enjoyment. With an electronic logbook you can do the same. Some examples of things I track are:
I’ve set up a custom flight category in Pilot Partner to track the flights for which the mission was maintenance checks. When logging a flight, it is a simple tick mark if it was a MX flight. Now I can have a total hours flown for MX, or even break it out by aircraft type or tail numbers.
I am not fortunate enough to fly behind a glass panel that often. But when I add an aircraft to my logbook I can tag it as a glass panel aircraft. Now I can see the number of hours I have flying glass (which isn’t that many).
One thing I like to do is track how many hours I have on my ANR Batteries so I can replace them before they go out on me, but I can still get most of the life out of my batteries. Honestly, I don’t have this working exactly as I want to in Pilot Partner yet, but I am working on it. As soon as I have this feature working the way I want it, you will see some blog posts specifically about this, but this is a great example of what an electronic logbook can do for you that a paper logbook will never do.
There are certain trends and data that just do not show up when you look at them on paper. When you look at different data on graphs things pop out at you. With Pilot Partner you will be able to see different graph and trends. The results will either make you feel great about the flying you have done, or might make you depressed at seeing how little you got to fly last year. Regardless, it is great to be able to see exactly what you have done.
Bottom line, if you have not started to use an Electronic Pilot Logbook yet, there is no better time to start than before your next flight. The sooner you convert, the sooner you will start to benefit from it. Every flight you make without logging them electronically, you are missing out. Whether you enter you current totals and start logging from today on, or you go back and import your entire logbook, you should get started today.
If you are a Certified Flight Instructor, you should be telling your students to start off electronically before they have too many flights. Starting early is always the best time. As a CFI you are able to use Pilot Partner free of charge. Learn How!
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