Editor’s Briefing: Looking Back – pilot logbook

Editor’s Briefing: Looking Back – pilot logbook

It doesn’t take long. As soon as pilots accumulate a few hundred flying hours, they begin to leaf back through their pilot logbook, reminiscing over planes flown, places seen and people noted. I remember filling up my first slim volume of carefully-annotated minutia (truly, there were some flights logged in indigence-mandated minutes) and turning through the pages before tossing it on the shelf. Looking back is not just for the aged, but for anyone who’s on a journey.
I don’t know how one flips through electronic records. As a print-and-ink guy, I’ve always been a scrivener, reluctantly accommodating a computer keyboard only after the office scanner no longer recognized my flawed typing. The pleasure of recalling experiences can no doubt be drawn from digital entries as well as handwritten ones, perhaps linked to additional files.
Why are we interested in going back into the archives of airplane types and stops made? Sometimes it’s curiosity, wanting to verify something we think we’ve done, but aren’t dead-sure of. Have I really flown that N-number, way back when? Did I fly during the ATC strike in 1981, and where was I flying around September 11 of 2001?
Learning is the transfer of knowledge gained through experience, and sometimes we make the transfer by personal recall, not solely by absorbing it from others. The trips in my logbook are testimony that I did find the airport in an unexpected snowstorm, or that it did take twice as long to come back home as it did to fly out.
In my very earliest days, I made entries in aircraft logbooks, as well as my own, because some of the older planes weren’t equipped with recording tachometers. Each pilot dutifully entered the time flown, to keep track of oil changes, landings and fuel consumed.
To create a useful record, it’s important to be dead-honest about one’s logbook entries – for yourself, if no one else. I do not, for instance, log pilot time unless I fulfill a takeoff/landing duty, which is why there’s no helicopter time in my books, even though I’ve spent many hours en route under rotor, performing as a human autopilot. As a glaring FAA inspector once told me, holding a ballpoint pen in his hand, “Ya know, this pen can write anything in a logbook.” His point was well-taken, and you and I have probably seen considerable P-51 (as in Parker 51 fountain pen) time in logs we’ve scrutinized. Take pride in keeping clean records, so you can look back at them as the gospel truth.
As do many senior birdmen, I no longer log the routine runs in detail, or keep track of time-in-type. But my logs still contain significant mementos of chasing jackrabbits after high-elevation takeoffs, deviating around storms, and making unplanned diversions to out-of-the-way airports. Looking back is habitual and infectious. It can also be productive, as a way to avoid repeating the mistakes we’ve made.


LeRoy Cook.


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