It is a fair question. Most new pilots log their flights because their flight instructor told them to and the FAA requires it. There are many different types of pilots out there and they have different philosophies for how they log their flights.
Some log their flights because the FAA requires it. I’ve talked to pilots who don’t even log their flights at all. If the FAA asks them, they will show them an Aircraft Flight log as proof. (Pilot Partner doesn’t believe this to be acceptable to meet the FAA requirements). Others log their flights in great detail and actually drive statistics from their logbook. Most pilots we know log in order to fill out Insurance or aviation job related applications.
But what are the exact requirements?
FAA FAR 61.51 outlines the full story of why we log our flights, what we must log and what must be included. Reading 61.51 you will see the requirements basically fit into two high- level categories:
- Flight Training
- Logging of PIC Time
If your logbook is anything like mine, you have many pages of your logbook with detailed notes, remarks and signatures, and then several pages of very basic or no remarks. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which of those pages are related to flight training and which of those pages are my normal flying. When you receive flight training, you should always maintain a detailed log of each task and item that you performed in training. Not only does the FAA require it should you want to use that training to earn a certificate, but it is good practice.
If you ever change flight instructors or stop your training only to restart later, a detailed record of what you have already done is very important.
Logging PIC Time
The minimum requirement of PIC time logging comes from 61.51.A.2:
(a) Training time and aeronautical experience. Each person must document and record the following time in a manner acceptable to the Administrator:
(1) Training and aeronautical experience used to meet the requirements for a certificate, rating, or flight review of this part.
(2) The aeronautical experience required for meeting the recent flight experience requirements of this part.
After you are a certificated pilot and all you want to do is meet the FAA minimum requirements, then all you have to do is jot down your flights that make you current for the type of flying you are doing. Let’s take a look at a couple of extreme examples:
The Solo Flyer
If all you wanted to do is fly solo VFR in a standard Single Engine Land aircraft. You would fill out a detailed flight logbook during your private pilot training including your check ride. Then when you fly solo, you have no need to make a log entry until your flight review is due. At any given time the only information you would have to present to the FAA is a logbook showing that you earned your Private Pilot’s Certificate, and that you have had a check ride or flight review in the last 2 years.
Flying with Friends
If you are the type of pilot who likes to take your friends flying but are remaining VFR. Then you have to start worrying about passenger currency for Day & Night time. It isn’t enough to just do enough landings, you have to have them documented. The key is to be able to prove to the FAA that you are current to fly. In this case all you have to do is log the flights that show you have done the required landings or full stops in the previous 90 days. While it is possible to save yourself time by only logging the flights required, it is actually more hassle than it is worth. Since what days are included in the 90-day window changes each new day that you fly, you would spent more time trying to figure out what flights you should log and which flights you shouldn’t.
The IFR Pilot
Once you earn your IFR rating, logging becomes much more important and more complicated. Not only are you worried about passenger currency, but now you have to log IFR currency. IFR currency requires either:
- Recent IFR Currency
- Instrument Proficiency Check from a CFI
Recent IFR currency includes 6 approaches, 1 hold and intercept & tracking in the preceding 6 calendar months. There are a lot of ways to get this currency including Actual Instrument, Simulated Instrument, and Flight Simulators. We will discuss this in more detail in a future article. The item that trips up most pilots is the preceding 6 calendar months.
It always seemed odd to me that the FAA would use such a different time measurement for IFR than they do Passenger Currency. Preceding 90 days is a very specific window in time, but preceding 6 calendar months seems a little arbitrary. I think the FAA is trying to help us IFR Pilots. It can be a big chore to stay IFR current. I know more IFR rated pilots who are not current than those who are current right now. The FAA is trying to make it as easy as possible for us to stay current while still maintaining a high level of safety and training. This means that if we went flying on March 12th, 2015 and shot 6 approaches, did a hold and intercepted and tracked a navigational aid (have you ever shot an approach without intercepting and tracking a navigational aid?), you would be current through October 31st, 2015. It doesn’t matter if that flight happened on March 1st or March 31st, your currency still expires at the end of October.
Currency is the primary reason why we log our flights. Are we current or are we not current? It is a very flexible question that can literally change day to day. Although it is possible to use your paper logbook to know if you are current or not… Pilot Partner will help you automatically know your currency status with a simple glance.