“How do I best setup my pilot logbook?” Unfortunately, I hear this question rarely. Every new student pilot should ask it. Federal Aviation Regulations specify the required events to log in a pilot logbook, and the endorsements required for various pilot certificates and operations. However, there is little guidance for helicopter pilots discussing what other categories of flight time should be logged in order to meet actual employer requirements for helicopter pilot jobs.
Let’s start by discussing the basics of pilot logbooks. Later, I’ll give you my tips and advice to prepare that resume for your first helicopter pilot job interview.
There are a few companies that manufacture paper logbooks, such as Jeppesen and Aviation Supplies and Academics (ASA). They typically have multiple columns pre-titled for the common information that must be logged, and many provide extra blank columns for you to track custom events.
There are also digital logbooks, such as Log Ten Pro X (I use this one) and ForeFlight’s own internal logbook. These two feature the ability for instructors to sign entries and lock them, an important capability for instructors adding endorsements or signing off flights for instruction given1,2. We could also simply create a spreadsheet if possessing the know-how, but we would likely need a physical book to address the signature issue.
For a new student pilot, I recommend a good paper logbook that you’ll treat as your training and endorsement book. Then, when you are solidified on making this a career, transition completely to a digital logbook to help track specific events and hours required for jobs, plus the ability to track duty hours. My logbook is all digital now, but I have scans of my old training logbook and endorsements backed up in multiple locations on- and off-line.
Why do I suggest the paper logbook? Of the students that came to me with digital logbooks, more than half of them didn’t understand how their digital logbook worked, would miss required information to log easily, and sometimes didn’t even have the required signatures from Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs) saved because they went and edited the entry. If we are going to start digital, understanding how it works is key to success at such an early stage in training where our logbooks will be reviewed often. Hence, I recommend starting with a physical book first, to give us time to learn the system without making potentially costly mistakes.
What do we need to log? Let’s look at 14 CFR 61.51(a).
14 CFR 61.51—Pilot logbooks.
(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.
Our training flights and flights needed to show recent flight experience need to be logged. If you get your Private Pilot certificate and then take a friend up for a flight, but don’t care about attributing it to recent flight experience requirements or the next level of pilot certificate, you don’t have to log it.
But, let’s be realistic here.
You are likely trying to become a professional helicopter pilot, working for an employer and making a living. For jobs, as you’ll see later, employers will be looking for minimum amounts of total flight time and other experience, so you may as well log every flight.
What are we required to log for these flights? 14 CFR 61.51(b) lists the following (excluding flight simulator, training device, and night vision goggle requirements for now):
- Date of the flight
- Total flight time or lesson time
- Location departed and arrived
- Type and identification of aircraft
- Name of the safety pilot, if required
- Type of pilot experience or training
- Pilot-In-Command (PIC)
- Second-In-Command (SIC)
- Flight and ground training received from an authorized instructor
- Flight conditions
- Day or night
- Actual or simulated instrument
Pretty much all printed logbooks have fields for these already built. They should also include an area for logging day/night takeoffs and landings to help track the passenger carrying recent flight experience requirements of 14 CFR 61.57.
Flight times in the United States are usually recorded in tenths of an hour. For example, if you fly for 1hr and 30min, that would be logged as 1.5hrs. Every six minutes equals one tenth of an hour (6min = 0.1, 12min = 0.2, etc.). There are exceptions you’ll see later in your career, but for flight training as a student pilot up through your Commercial and Flight Instructor certificates you’ll more than likely log flight time in this format.
Helicopter student pilots will get many endorsements in their quest for the Private Pilot certificate. Do your best to keep these in chronological order, neatly arranged in your logbook. Dedicate at least the last ten pages for endorsements—some mass-produced logbooks already have sections for these. Don’t throw them around randomly on the pages (if in a label format), and ask instructors to write neatly and in a specific spot before just handing them your logbook.
After you achieve all your pilot certificates, your endorsements for solos, knowledge tests, and practical exams will probably never be looked at again. However, any endorsement you get for a Flight Review (14 CFR 61.56) or Instrument Proficiency Check (14 CFR 61.57) may be viewed by your employer or potential employer, so keeping this section clean and organized will leave a good impression. Also, if you flew Robinson helicopters in training and are planning on teaching in them, you’ll have additional endorsements to satisfy the requirements of Special Federal Regulation (SFAR) 73, and want to make those readily available.
Logbook Tips and Tricks
The most important tip I can give you is to make sure that your instructor signs your logbook after every training flight. Besides the fact that flight instructors are required to sign, if you show up to a practical exam (“check ride”) missing signatures on flights that are required to meet the minimums for the pilot certificate sought, you’ll be out of luck in getting your certificate. I have seen it happen. Take responsibility for your training.
Here are some other basic principles I recommend following for maintaining your pilot logbook from day one:
- Use the same ink pen type and color for all entries. This will keep every entry looking standardized.
- If you make a mistake, line it out and enter the correction, or line out the entire entry and start a new one. Don’t hide any error by completely covering it.
- After an entire logbook page is done, cut off a small part of at least one corner so as to easily jump to the most recent page of the logbook when closed.
- After an entire logbook page is done, scan that page electronically and save it to at least two separate devices.
- Every time you get an endorsement added to the logbook, scan that page electronically and save it to at least two separate devices.
Besides the required items to log that we just discussed, create columns for the following and log time when it applies:
Helicopter: This one is a no-brainer, but many printed logbooks only have airplane columns already made up. If you have no plan to ever fly an airplane, cross it out and write: “Helicopter.”
Turbine: Once you get a job flying a turbine helicopter or perhaps fly them in training, start logging turbine time. If you just take a look at job ads posted for helicopter pilots on sites such as jsfirm.com and justhelicopters.com, you’ll find almost all of them list a specific minimum of turbine time required for hire.
Mountain: If you have the good fortune to train and fly in designated mountainous areas, log it. What are designated mountainous areas? Commonly, employers consider it to be operating in areas depicted in the Aeronautical Information Manual, Chapter 5, Section 6. Many also stipulate that the altitude flown was greater than 5,000’ Mean Sea Level (MSL). I personally only log it if I also landed and departed locations off-airport in the designated mountainous areas, at altitudes greater than 6,000’ MSL.
Night Cross Country: No doubt you are already logging night and cross country in their own columns, however many jobs will list a minimum flight time requirement specifically for cross country flights that occurred during night. You can save yourself the trouble of looking up each flight and doing the math if you go ahead and have a column specifically for this.
Aircraft Model: If you have room left, consider making columns for each model of helicopter you fly, so that you can easily total the flight experience you have in each one and list it on a resume. Some jobs will require a minimum amount of flight time in specific models, and, again, you can save yourself the trouble of looking up each flight and doing the math if you go ahead and have a column specifically for these.
Digital logbooks are nice for adding nearly unlimited columns to track anything you want and searching entries. I highly recommend either going digital once you are done with training and committed to progressing throughout your career as a helicopter pilot, or keeping a digital logbook in sync with a paper logbook while in training.
Regardless of your choice, regularly backup that logbook in more than one physical location. If you lose it during training, it could be impossible to recreate without other existing data.
- Coradine. (2016). Is the Signature Feature Compliant with FAA Advisory Circular 120-78? [FAQ Post]. Retrieved December 6, 2016 from http://help.coradine.com/kb/common-questions-answers/is-the-signature-feature-compliant-with-faa-advisory-circular-120-78
- ForeFlight. (2016). Logbook in ForeFlight Mobile, Sixth Edition [Internal PDF Document]. Retrieved December 6, 2016 from ForeFlight Mobile [iOS App].