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The 'oh no' moment

Recreating a lost logbook

Your paper logbook is your whole flying life contained in one (and perhaps more) compact little volume. An electronic logbook is great, sure, but a paper logbook is a part of aviation tradition, like cutting a shirt tail. It’s a tangible and legal record of all the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve put into this hobby or career.
Photography by Chris Rose.
Zoomed image
Photography by Chris Rose.

Pilots guard their logbooks carefully, but things happen. Flight bags get stolen out of cars; logbooks disappear during a move or perhaps are destroyed in an accident. Carrying your logbook with you on each flight is a habit many of us develop as student pilots. We want our flight instructor to note that precious time at the conclusion of each lesson and we dare not forget it. Unless you are a student pilot, a sport pilot, or a recreational pilot, you need not carry the logbook with you, and you generally shouldn’t. To act as pilot in command before you pass the checkride, you need only to carry (“have readily accessible,” in FAA language) your government-issued photo identification, pilot certificate, and your medical certificate (unless exempt, for example those with BasicMed or sport pilots).

This is why many pilots back up their paper logbooks with electronic versions. There are many available—some for free, others included in electronic flight bags such as ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot, and some with yearly or monthly subscriptions. Get in the habit of loading those computer entries when you do your paper ones, or else get ready to spend several hours inputting the entries from day one of your flying. You can also digitize the paper entries manually (or pay someone else to do it).

But let’s say you have not been backing up your paper logbook with an electronic record, and one day the paper logbook goes missing. Is all lost? No. The FAA provides guidance for reconstructing lost airman logbooks in Volume 5, Chapter 1, Section 8 of Order 8900.1. The FAA allows the airman to provide a signed statement of previous flight time. You should substantiate your statement to the extent you can, and to do that you will need documents that support your statement.

Start with your most recent FAA Form 8710-1, Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application, and most recent medical certificate application. Copies of these can be obtained from the FAA.

Other sources include aircraft logbooks; receipts for aircraft rentals; and statements of flight operators. For example, go to your flight school and obtain a copy of your records. You may want to have the flight school notarize the copy. This will safeguard you in the event something happens to the flight school. Similarly, statements from previous flight instructors would work for this purpose. Although not required to carry these documents with your new logbook, remember to keep them in a safe place in case you are asked to substantiate your reconstructed logbook.

You’ll notice that each page of a paper logbook includes the statement: “I certify that the statements made by me on this form are true,” and a place for your signature. By signing off on each page of your logbook, you are creating a legal document verifying your flight hours.

You’ll also want to document your most recent flight review and takeoff and landing currency for the purposes of carrying passengers; instrument proficiency; and any additional endorsements you may have earned such as for high-performance, complex, tailwheel, and pressurized aircraft with a service ceiling or maximum operating altitude, whichever is lower, above 25,000 feet msl. Look to flight instructors and flight schools for supporting documentation. If this supporting documentation simply can’t be found, you may need to obtain those endorsements again. Ouch.

If you don’t have any sort of digital backup—and this can be as simple as taking a photo of each page with your cellphone or tracking those hours in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet—now’s the time. You’ll be glad you did—especially if you’re on a career path.

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Jill W. Tallman
Jill W. Tallman
AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who is part-owner of a Cessna 182Q.

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