Going paperless with your logbook

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Over the past 3 years pilots have been quickly transitioning to a paperless cockpit, using the iPad as an electronic preflight and in-flight resource. The iPad allows pilots to reliably organize and display sectional charts and airport directories, view GPS moving maps, and organize PDF documents all in one location. Student pilots have found this to be a great resource too, using it to keep all the tools for learning at their fingertips right alongside the required navigation charts. In this move towards a paperless cockpit, I’m also seeing more and more pilots transition their pilot logbooks to an electronic format, instead of relying on the traditional paper books.

I personally made the move to an electronic logbook about 6 months ago after 13 years of flying, and there’s no turning back for me. Here are a few of the benefits I’ve realized:

  • Ease of data entry – With the popular logbook programs available today, you can enter the data on your smartphone, iPad or computer, and all the information stays synced between the devices. Before when I relied on the paper book I found myself forgetting to add times right after a flight. Now I just enter the times right on my iPhone as I walk away from the airplane.
  • Data security   Logbook records are extremely important for pilots, containing irreplaceable details on all your flights. I’ve known several pilots who have lost their logbooks over the years, and it caused many headaches when they went to apply for professional flying jobs. With an electronic logbook your data is backed up online and very secure.
  • Instant flight analysis  One of my favorite features of an electronic logbook is the application’s ability to analyze your flight times. You can instantly determine your landing, night or instrument currency, and get reminders about upcoming requirements, like a flight review.
  • Flight time reporting  Electronic logbooks allow you to easily manipulate your flight data, making it easy to see how much time you have in a particular type of airplane, or how many times your visited a particular airport. The reporting functions allow you to quickly export this data, which you’ll find particularly useful down the road if needed for insurance applications when flying larger airplanes.

There are several electronic logbook programs available, and the best one I’ve come across is LogTen Pro from Coradine software. This program runs great on an iPad or iPhone, and is also available for Mac computer users. It’s a very intuitive program, and even includes a way for your instructor to sign the logbook electronically on an iPhone or iPad. Another option is a program called Logbook Pro, which offers PC, Android and Kindle versions, in addition to those for iPhone and iPad.

I think it’s a great idea for new student pilots to start out from scratch with an electronic logbook, since it’ll keep your data organized and secure from the day you start flying. If you’re a brand new student pilot and and want to test out the concept first, consider logging your times in a free Microsoft Excel or Google Docs spreadsheet. Then once you decide you like the idea of logging your times electronically, it’s an easy step to later import that data into a more capable program like LogTen Pro.

One concern I often hear comes from pilots who have lots of time logged in paper books, and think they need to go back and re-enter all their past flights line by line into the new electronic logbook. While you can certainly do that, my recommendation is to go back and just enter the last 6 – 12 months, which will establish a good recent history in the program. Regardless of how many flights you decide to transfer (if any at all), make sure to enter the totals from each column in your paper logbook as the starting numbers in the new electronic version, so the cumulative times remain accurate.

So let’s hear from you, which type of logbook are you currently using?

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Bret is vice president and senior flight instructor for Sporty's Academy. In addition to Bret's teaching responsibilities, Bret leads Sporty's video production and app development team and serves as editor of the popular iPad Pilot News online journal. As an airline transport pilot, Bret is a senior captain in Sporty's corporate flight department.