Pilot Licenses and Logbooks

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Aside from the physical and mental preparation, there are a few more things a good pilot must check before each flight. Are your medical certificate and license in your possession? Are they current? Are you current in the aircraft you are going to fly this day? If these and all the other things in the previous pages are in good shape, then you are probably physically, mentally, and emotionally ready for the flight. Remember, the pilot-in-command is responsible for the safe conduct of each and every flight. Prepare well for it and it will probably go as planned. 

Many pilots believe a total preflight of an aircraft consists of a thorough walk-around looking for any loose nuts and bolts, but this is only part of it.

The preflight really starts with the paperwork. In addition to the certificates required of the pilot, the airplane has a plethora of its own. I start with the logbooks. The FAA requires that every aircraft owner maintains a current set of airframe and engine logbooks. These logbooks do not have to be carried in the airplane, but must be readily available. What should be evident in these logbooks? What do you look for in order to prove your aircraft was airworthy, at least at the time of the logbook entry? It varies as to whether the aircraft is used privately, or for commercial purposes.

If the aircraft is your own and you do not rent, lease, or otherwise make money directly from it, then the first item to check is whether the aircraft is within the time constraints of its last annual inspection. Every aircraft must have an annual inspection, and the evidence of the inspection is found in the aircraft airframe and engine logbooks. An annual inspection is valid for 12 calendar months, after which if you were to fly this aircraft, you would be technically illegal. Your aircraft would be considered unairworthy.

If the logbooks state that your aircraft has last had an annual on June 18, 1999, then it would be considered airworthy until 11:59 p.m. of June 30, 2000. After that, the aircraft would become illegal for flight. In short, the annual inspection is valid from the date of inspection for one year plus the number of days left until 11:59:59 on the last day of the month in which it was inspected.

All aircraft must have an annual inspection unless they are on a progressive maintenance program. In addition to the annual inspection, aircraft used for hire must have an inspection every 100 flight hours that should be entered in the airframe and engine logbooks, as well. 

While looking through the logbooks, it doesn’t hurt to scan the pages for any sign of substantial damage, how and when it was repaired, and any other pertinent information you can find. You might gain a clue as to where to look more closely in the preflight. Required inspections listed in the logbooks only mean the airplane is legally airworthy at the time the inspections were completed —a lot could have happened to the aircraft since.

Many airlines and rental companies make use of a squawk sheet. A squawk sheet is a form used to indicate any malfunctions, gripes, or complaints made by prior pilots after a flight. This should be fascinating
preflight reading. Note the date and type of comments made by the previous pilots about the aircraft you are about to fly. Additionally, you might ask other pilots who have recently flown the particular aircraft if they noticed anything unusual.

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