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Yule Log

by Ed Stephens Jr.

Private Pilot magazine, December,  2005


A typical 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 foundation.                

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 it.

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 accounting.

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 important stuff. 

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 remarks. 

Personal preference 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. 

Logbook: Priceless.


© 2005 Ed Stephens Jr.