Logging Time (Sim and Otherwise)

When I was working on my private pilot license, I don’t remember getting a whole lot of instruction on how to fill out my logbook and as time went on, I learned even less. In my early years, my logbook was always completed by my CFI and I got my education solely by looking at he had written.

Logbooks nowadays seem to have a lot more columns and now most even include a space for simulator time, though it may appear as something different- FTD and Ground Trainer are two examples. So let’s take a look at what information is being asked for and how to most accurately add that information.

First of all, remember that there is no general rule that says you must enter all your time in a logbook, or any of your time, for that matter, except as necessary to maintain currency or satisfy training requirements. That’s why flight students have to keep their logbooks up-to-date, so that the examiner can confirm you have met every requirement for that particular rating.

But once you do decide to add your flight time to your logbook, there are regulations that dictate what should be entered and how:

  • Date
  • Total flight or lesson time
  • Location of departure and arrival- in the flight sim, the location shold be the location of the sim
  • Type and identification of aircraft, flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device
  • Name of safety pilot if required (for IFR students)
  • Type of pilot experience/training- Solo, PIC, SIC, Flight and ground training by a CFI, sim training by a CFI
  • Flight Conditions- Day or Night, Actual instrument conditions, simulated instrument conditions (includes sim)

Training in a simulator, such as our AATD, is never entered as flight time. If you have been receiving any time in a simulator, please double-check your logbook and make sure that your sim time was not inadvertantly added as flight time.

This is probably as good a time as any to discuss logbook corrections. We all make mistakes but the proper way to correct a logbook mistake is to draw a single line through the wrong information and then enter the correct information. Don’t scribble through it and never use a correction fluid such as White-Out (or Green-Out.) A single line clearly indicates an error, but any effort to completely obliterate an entry could be construed as deceptive, and your logbook is your proof of compliance, perhaps in a court of law. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to suggest you are trying to hide something in your flight records.

Oh, and there’s nothing in the regs about what color of ink should be in your logbook. Doesn’t matter at all. Sometimes you will hear that it HAS to be all black, or all blue, but that is just their personal preference. Pink is not my cup of tea, but I know people who use that color, or violet, or red, and it doesn’t matter to the FAA at all. Some people like to use different colors for different types of flight, like blue just for solo and black for everything else. Some will switch up colors for cross-country flights and some for IFR flights. Some of the best organized logbooks I have seen have color-coded entries and those people can find anything quickly. Do what’s best for you and don’t worry about other people’s preferences- it’s your logbook.

There are also a few common misconceptions about how flight time should be categorized. Solo time is every time you are the only person in the airplane. Not the only pilot, but the sole occupant. Cross Country is anytime you land at a place that is different from your departure, regardless of the distance. Yes, when you are working on your Private Pilot, your cross-country flights must be at least 50 nautical miles, but that is an additional restriction placed by the FAA and applies just for that rating. Almost all ratings have some minimum distance requirements for cross country flights, but those are exceptions, not the rule.

According to the AOPA, you should ” … log all cross-country hours under the basic cross-country column and then add the distance and landing information under the notes or remarks column alongside. This will enable the pilot to correctly provide his or her cross-country hours depending on the question asked, the situation presented, or the certificate or rating sought.

” Pilots may think that they would only need to account for cross-country hours that can be used to meet certificate requirements. This is true from a strict FAA legal point of view; a pilot only has to prove those hours used for certificate requirement and the various currency requirements. We have seen pilots sell themselves short, however, when asked for cross-country time on an airline job application, an insurance renewal form, or the cross-country requirements for a Part 135 pilot in command under 14 CFR 135.243(b) and (c), all of which were looking for total cross-country time.”

Believe or not, there is no requirement to carry your logbook with you while you fly, except for a very few exceptions, one of which may apply to you- Student Pilots must have their logbook in their possession on solo cross-country flights, because the logbook has the CFI endorsements that make that flight legal.

And finally, your Solo time is also Pilot-in-Command time, always, even as a Student Pilot, so make sure you check those boxes too.

The AOPA has a great resource here and the FAA regulations can be found here, and your Instructor, of course, can answer any specific questions.