Navigating a Commercial Pilot’s logbook

Navigating a Commercial Pilot’s logbook

In a pilot’s world, few documents are as significant as logbooks. Aside from their medical and flying certificates, a logbook functions as a dynamic record of flights and flying hours. They are a vital tool for a commercial pilot. This blog will cover their appearance, their utilisation, and their evolution through technology. 

Essentials of Logbooks

A pilot’s logbook is a living legally binding document. Especially during the early phases of flight instruction, both students and instructors meticulously document flight times. The contents of a logbook categorise flight hours into distinct segments, including training sessions, solo flights, instrument practice, cross-country travel, and multi-engine flights. A logbook must be accurately maintained, adhering to stipulated criteria, before an examiner can proceed with a check-ride or skill test. This imbues the logbook with legal weight. Each logbook page necessitates the pilot’s signature, and instructors endorse every flight entry with their certificate number, thus verifying the authenticity of the recorded time.


Logbooks exhibit varying formats depending on the manufacturer. While specific details might differ, all logbooks encompass columns for recording the aircraft’s tail number, flight date, total flight duration, and the count of takeoffs and landings. Optional columns might encompass aspects mentioned earlier, alongside factors like nocturnal flight time, instrument approaches, time as pilot-in-command or second-in-command (PIC and SIC), and flight-specific annotations. Smaller logbooks typically allocate around eight lines per page, while more extensive versions might feature up to 15 lines per page.

How to log times 

Two primary methods for logging time are hours and minutes, or hours and decimals. Although recording time in hours and minutes (e.g., 2:35) might appear straightforward, employing decimal representation (e.g., 2.5 or 2.6) often proves more practical. General aviation planes employ Hobbs meters, which tick over by 0.1 every six minutes when the engine is operational. Consequently, students utilise the decimal form during flight training – summing decimals is simpler compared to tallying minutes.

Airlines and flight schools keep track of pilot’s flight times through digital tracking and logging. It is especially important for airlines to keep these records to ensure that pilots do not exceed crew rest and duty time regulations. Aircraft automatically transmit flight times to a central tracking system, allowing schedulers to preemptively avoid illegal flight assignments.

On the receiving end of this software, airline pilots gain access to their flight times via the company’s tracking system and can log their hours accurately through the corporate IT infrastructure.

Most pilots maintain a minimum of two logbooks: one as a physical copy and the other on a cloud-based online platform. Digital logbooks mirror their paper counterparts by capturing identical parameters. Digital logs are less susceptible to loss or damage, offering a tidier solution that can tailor reports to the pilot’s specific requirements

A Lifetime of Logging

Seasoned pilots often cease tracking flight hours once they secure positions with their chosen “permanent” airline. Airlines proficiently manage their pilots’ hours, negating the necessity for pilots to continually track their flight time. Given the potential tedium of this task, many pilots find little incentive to log time beyond their initial several thousand hours.

Nevertheless, numerous airline pilots continue to maintain paper logbooks throughout their careers. These logbook pages chronicle a pilot’s journey even when memories fade.