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Logbooks aren't just a way to keep a track of your flight times and training records. They're a representation of you as a pilot, your personality, and your skill sets. If you're applying for a job in the cockpit, you're being hired not for the certificate you hold, but for the experiences and knowledge you've built over time that will make you a successful and safe professional pilot. In this process, logbooks might be more important than you think. In some cases, they'll determine your ability to get hired.
We talked to Brooks Butler, the Chief Pilot of PSA Airlines, and Eric Graser, a pilot and recruiter at ExpressJet Airlines, about what they look for in logbooks during hiring. Their tips and advice come from hundreds of logbook reviews over years...and trust me, they've seen it all.
The first logbooks are usually the most messy and disorganized. It makes sense; as you start flight training you're bound to make a few mistakes and that's ok. But if your goal is to be a professional pilot, you should try log flights as a professional from day one. Does this mean you need to be perfect? Nope. It just means it's something you should care about and spend effort on each and every time you write an entry.
A logbook is essentially a legal document, so make sure it's legible, organized, signed, and totaled correctly. If you can, find a good electronic program to begin logging flight times alongside your paper copy early on. It will save countless hours later on.
Don't forget to document your logbooks and back them up with pictures or scans. Personally, I take a picture of every new totaled page and keep them in a file that's on my laptop and synced to an online server. If you lose the only copy of a logbook, you'll likely lose dozens of hours of progress, and much of it will be hard to re-record accurately. Protect them by keeping them somewhere safe.
Both PSA and ExpressJet highly recommend that pilots use a reputable electronic program to log flight time. Eric and Brooks stressed the importance of using a dedicated logbook application, instead of trying to format your own spreadsheet. Self-made spreadsheets contained the most errors, inaccurate information, and are generally formatted less professionally.
So which electronic logbook should you use? There are plenty of options out there, but both recruiters said the program doesn't matter nearly as much as the format. Here are some of the most popular options: LogTen Pro X and ForeFlight Logbook.
It doesn't matter. If you have 6 or 7 logbooks that's ok. Just make sure each logbook is totaled at the end and the times are carried forward accurately to the next logbook. In one case, Brooks saw flight times inaccurate by up to 20 hours between new and old logbooks. Large professional pilot logbooks are the best if possible. Bring everything to an interview, electronic copies and handwritten books.
In the airline world, pilots sometimes use small trip books to keep track of their flights and duty times before they have time to pull out the physical logbook for making entries. These trip books aren't professional documents and shouldn't be used as such according to both pilot recruiters. So don't bring in 25 or 50 of those little books as a record of your flight experience. They must be logged in your logbooks correctly.
Sit down and concentrate before you begin to write. It may sound simple, but the more you think about what and where you're putting entries, the less mistakes you'll make. If you're applying and already have airline time, make sure to include the flight numbers and routes in the comments, along with approaches performed.
Blue or black ink pens should always be used - Even for individual entries if possible. Avoid pencil if you can. The signature on each page MUST be in pen, with each and every page signed.
It's easy to make mistakes, especially as you're starting a flying career. When you do make an error, corrections are all about cleanliness. Cross through the mistake with a single line and write in the margin "see next line for correction." The best way to do this is by re-writing the correct entry on the line below and making it clear that the previous line contains an error. Other forms of correcting, like whiteout, can be acceptable, but that might depend on interviewer preference. Brooks didn't mind the use of whiteout, while Eric said it's generally not seen as professional. Either way though, it's not a huge deal.
The most common logbook problems are unsigned pages, incorrect totals (especially when single and multi-engine times don't match up to total time), totals not matching between separate logbooks, and strange or incriminating comments written next to entries.
More specifically, here are a few of the most unusual problems that these recruiters ran into when reviewing logbooks:
Don't worry if you think your logbook is messy and beyond salvage; you have a few options. Brooks mentioned that when a pilots applicant come in with re-written logbooks (alongside the originals), explaining that they want to present their most organized and professional entries, the interview panel is always impressed. That extra effort goes a long way in proving how much you care about your professional appearance to a potential hiring flight department. Another option is to make sure your electronic logbooks are correct and updated, explaining to an interview panel that in order to present organized and clean entries, you spent extra effort making sure your electronic copies were accurate and ready to go.
They usually won't make or break an interview, so don't stress out about the mistakes you've made over time. But logbooks are one great representation of you as a pilot. If you want to present your most professional self to a potential employer, keep them well organized, clean, and accurate.
Brooks summarized it perfectly. "It gives huge relief to an interview panel to say 'wow, look at this.' I have a huge sense of security in choosing to hire a candidate when records are organized well. Just like a checkride, you usually won't fail on one single item. It's a culmination of mistakes and problems. It's the same with any interview. Don't let inaccurate or messy logbooks deduct points from your interview. Logbooks are an easy problem to fix, and one of the best ways you can prove your professionalism."
What do you think? Have you run into problems with your logbooks before? Tell us in the comments below how you like to log flight time.
Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, commercially licensed pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings, and a commercial aviation student at the University of North Dakota. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. Swayne's experience ranges from international flights in a King Air F90 to ferrying a 1943 Grumman Widgeon across the country. You can reach Swayne at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.