Thursday, December 21, 2006

Logbook Entries

I have on many occasions had discussions with flight instructors on issues concerning logging of time. I would like to go over a few of these issues. Some of them are misconceptions, while others are simply confusion about how a particular logbook entry should be made. I should also add that I claim no great expertise in these matters, but I did serve as chief flight instructor of a flight school for a number of years, and researched these questions as they arose. In many cases I relied heavily on the Part 61 FAQ file created by John Lynch. For a long time this file was available on the FAA’s website. It was recently removed from the site, but a number of us still have copies of the file squirreled away for reference.

I emphasize that in no way do I consider myself an expert on logbook entries, but I do get a lot of questions about these issues. Trying to research and find the right answers has led to the following recommendations I give to pilots and instructors.


  • John D. Lynch Part 61 FAQ file
  • FARs Explained, by Kent Jackson and Joseph Brennan
  • AOPA Flight Training, columns by John and Kathy Yodice

Logging Landings for Currency

One of the most common misconceptions is that because an instructor may log flight time when giving dual instruction, by extension that instructor may also log the student’s landings as their own landings in order to satisfy currency requirements. In a nutshell – no way. John Lynch is very clear about this. An instructor may not maintain/attain the FAR 61.57 recent experience for takeoffs and landings while monitoring and critiquing takeoffs and landings performed by another pilot/student. Jackson and Brennan also concur on this – a CFI cannot log student landings to meet the FAR 61.57 recent experience criteria.

Logging IMC Time

Only the pilot can determine if the aircraft is in actual instrument conditions. But a quick and easy answer, according to John Lynch, is that if the weather is below the VFR minimums listed in FAR 91.155 and the pilot is flying solely by reference to instruments, the time may be logged as instrument flight under actual instrument conditions.

When flying solely by reference to instruments in VMC conditions, such as a dark night over a landscape with few visible lights or over an overcast with no visible horizon, it should be logged as simulated instrument conditions. However this brings up the interesting question of whether a safety pilot must be in the other seat when flying solely by reference to instruments in VMC conditions such as listed above. John Lynch is not completely clear on this.

An appropriately rated flight instructor (CFII) may log as actual instrument time the time spent giving flight instruction in IMC conditions.

A pilot working on an instrument rating may log the time spent in actual IMC conditions when receiving training from a CFII as PIC if the pilot is rated for the airplane. Note, there is a difference between logging time as PIC and serving as PIC on the flight. The person who is sole manipulator of the controls may log the time as PIC. However that is not the same as serving as PIC on the flight. The later, the CFII in this case, is serving as PIC on the flight and as such has full responsibility for the safety and legality of the flight.

Logging Approaches

A CFII may log approaches that a student flies when those approaches are conducted in actual instrument flight conditions. John Lynch is slightly unclear on this, but he seems to imply that in order to log an approach in actual instrument conditions, it should be flown to either DH or MDA. However he doesn’t say that the entire approach, down to DH or MDA, must be conducted in IMC. But he is very clear that to fly to the FAF and then break it off does not qualify as an approach flown in actual instrument conditions. Jackson and Brennan concur on this, but further specify that it may be necessary to abandon the approach for safety reasons.

Logging Time in an FTD

Instruction received in an authorized FTD (Flight Training Device) such as Frasca or an Elite RC1 ATD from a CFII may be logged as dual received and FTD (or simulator) time. It does not count towards flight time. The logbook entry must contain the type and identification of the device and its location. Instructors should make a corroborative entry in their logbook, for FTD time and dual instruction given. The 8710 form contains space for FTD time under both the instrument column and the dual received column.

If a FTD is approved for 2.5 hours toward the Private Pilot License, the device may not be used to meet the requirements for three hours of hood time. This time specifically must be accomplished in an airplane. FAR 61.109(a) specifies 12 hours of instruction that must be conducted in an airplane – 3 hours night, 3 hours cross-country, 3 hours hood work, and 3 hours in preparation for the practical test. However the 2.5 hours in an FTD may be used to meet the remaining non-specified (minimum) 8 hours of dual instruction.

Logging Night Flight

According to the John Lynch, logging of night flight should be made in accordance with Part 1 definitions, which is from the end of evening civil twilight to the start of morning civil twilight. This is approximately from ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise. Note, this definition does not serve for the purpose of meeting night currency. That is still from one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise. So basically FAA has three definitions of night.

  • Sunset to sunrise – aircraft position lights must be on
  • ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise – may be logged as night flight
  • 1 hour after sunset to 1 hour before sunrise – may be used for landings to attain/maintain currency to carry passengers at night.


Anonymous said...

That all jives with what I've been doing and also illustrates the difficulty of staying legally current as an instructor.

We watch/coach/assist on a boatload of landings and instrument approaches but don't get to log any of them.

(I haven't been logging approaches flown by a student in actual IMC because I wasn't the "sole manipulator of the controls" but I do log it as actual.)

Funny as it sounds, even though I fly 20+ hours/month as PIC it's tough to actually log three landings every 90 days much less log the required six approaches, hold, intercept/track navigational signals every six months for instrument currency.

I wind up having to rent an airplane to keep current and an airplane or simulator to stay instrument current. For the sake of efficiency, I fly at night and throw in an approach and hold. That covers my night currency, my day and night landing requirement and is one fewer approach I need to fly.

The simulator issue is interesting as well. In my mind (and my logbook) it counts toward my "Total time" but not as "Pilot time." i.e., it's not PIC or SIC.

The downside to instructors teaching in the sim (at least those who are looking to build time) is that it doesn't count as flight time.

The upside, of course, is that it's good for the student and that's the most important thing.

And, to be fair, watching a ton of instrument approaches is probably just as effective as actually flying the darn things. I was surprised at how well I did under the hood after three months of not flying an approach but after three months of teaching dozens of them.


Anonymous said...

i would like to know as someone that holds an ALTP, if one can use simulator hours toward a grade1 rating.

Linda said...

In response to the reader who asked about a grade 1 rating, I have to confess I don't know what an ALTP rating is. Is it an ATP? The best answer I can give you is to give you the URL of the page that details the FAA accreditation for the sim. Please go to the Sim Flite Minnesota website, at and follow the link to the FAA Accreditation page.


Anonymous said...

It is my opinion that takeoffs and landings done during demo flights can certainly be logged for currency by the CFI. Without the CFI on board during a demo flight the demo student would only become a smoking hole in the ground. The demo student is clearly not executing a takeoff or landing although they may have their hands on the controls. Any thinking to the contrary is just plain goofy.

Matthew said...

Would you say that a CFII could log Holding and Intercepting and Tracking when it is done in IMC?

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Anonymous said...

You are doing a disservice by equating/approximating civil twilight as 1/2 hour from sunset/sunrise. Yes, this is a good ballpark figure to aid in understanding the relationship between the various FAR "nighttimes", but as a CFI you want to deter your students from learning inaccurate generalizations. Civil twilight varies greatly with latitude and season, and it can be a very wacky phenomenon at extreme latitudes (that's why the FAR has an alternate definition for Alaska flyers, which you failed to mention).