by Ed Stephens Jr.
Private Pilot magazine, December, 2005
pilot flies a $120,000 airplane, has an $800 watch, a $300
headset, and, of course, wears a $275 leather flight jacket.
Yes, it takes a tower of expensive gear to reach the heavens,
and some build it all atop...a three-dollar logbook.
What a wimpy
Airplanes come and go,
but logs stick with you for life. The gray-hairs out there know
this, which is why you see them brandishing weighty tomes embossed with
intimidating declarations like “Senior Pilot” or “Professional Pilot.”
Never mind the “senior”
and “professional” appellations, that’s just the Marketing Boyz outsmarting
themselves by lending an air of exclusively to something that is really a
basic necessity. So who needs “junior” and “unprofessional” logs?
Nobody. Not even junior non-professionals. There’s simply no advantage in
Yet this wacky trend
continues. It starts with students. They’re issued glorified cocktail
napkins by well-meaning CFIs, who are trying to save a newbie some pocket
change on a purchase that has lifetime implications. The road is paved with
good intentions. Many students never make it to fully-licensed status, so
they don’t want to over-invest in flight gear. Point noted. And point
dismissed with extreme prejudice: A logbook is not the place to bet against
yourself. Save chump change some other way.
Chief among my cheapo
chumpy logbook gripes is that they won’t hold enough flights per page to
keep an active pilot on the same page before lunch time. Assuming, of
course, that the pages haven’t fallen out. Anyway, every time you start a
new page you have to tally and carry-over the data from the prior page.
Your (well, my) inevitable carrying errors get folded forward into
perpetuity. These errors come to your attention five years down the road,
at 3:35 a.m. to be precise, when you, and your logbook, are preparing for an
8:00 a.m. checkride. That’s a rotten time to have to learn forensic
In the same vein, a
serious logbook reduces the page-flipping factor at the photocopier or
scanner. Ah, aviation, where paranoia and redundancy are kissing cousins.
My logs are scanned and copied onto CDs, which are stashed away in dispersed
places, the better to withstand tactical nuclear strikes, swarms of
voracious locusts...or the fact that I am plagued with a knack for losing
Indeed, in this era of
$40 scanners, the “dog ate my logbook” excuse doesn’t work. Not if the dog
ate your copies, too.
I’ll wag the obvious
and mention that a serious logbook will have enough pages to serve you for
decades, and enough columns to account for rating upgrades, notes, and
plays a key role in this realm, but Sporty’s Senior Pilot Flight Log and
Record ($19.95) is a benchmark. It has 16 rows (flights), 28 columns, and a
total of 272 pages. CFIs should note that it contains seven pages of
pre-written endorsements, which saves on the writer’s cramp factor.
This logbook has a
faithful companion, the Sporty’s Flight Log Case /Organizer (large,
$15.95). It’s a folio that keeps the log safe from coffee spills (my
specialty) and rain splashes (my other specialty). It has a place for a pen,
a cubby for documents, and Sporty’s can even embroider three initials on
it. Great idea. That’s a tempting Yule time gift.
My favorite logbook
was, indeed, a gift back in 1991. Together we’ve tallied time all over the
world: jets, choppers, props, turboprops...remote jungles, little islands,
big cities, and everything in between.
Jet: $7,559,000. Prop:
$59,400. Lunch in Pago Pago: $11.25.
2005 Ed Stephens Jr.