Logging the Flight Time

Logging the flight time can be tricky when you need to meet the requirements for different authorities, for example, FAA and EASA. They have a lot of common points, but they have some essential differences as well, so it’s better to know them to save some money.

First of all, I’d like to explain some terms.

PIC (Pilot In Command). It is the person who assumes the responsibility of the entire flight. He fills the aircraft’s logs ans has the final authority. According to the EASA regulations, you can log PIC time only if you act as a PIC, but FAA rules allow to log PIC time in some other cases – I will explain it later in this post.

PICUS (PIC under supervision). It is the person who acts as a PIC, but under specific circumstances. For example, in the UK the student logs PICUS time during a checkride with the examiner. I haven’t seen PICUS time in the FAA regulations.

SIC (Second In Command). It is a co-pilot (or a first officer) for a multi-pilot aircraft.

Safety pilot. It is not actually a pilot, but a person who monitors the pilot’s actions for some reason. Legally it is a passenger, but sometimes it can be a flight instructor who does not provide flight training (and, correspondingly, does not log his flight time). Sometimes he can log flight time too, when he acts as a required flight crew member (I will also explain later).

Passenger. Just a passenger, does not perform any duties.

VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). Meteorological conditions when there are visual references outside the aircraft (for example, the horizon, or some landmarks on the ground). Basically it’s flight conditions outside the clouds.

IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions). Basically it’s NOT VMC. Usually it’s when we are in the clouds and cannot navigate using outside references. Legally VMC has necessary minimums, and when we are below these minimums, we can consider the conditions as IMC.

VFR (Visual Flight Rules). Legally we can fly under VFR when we are in VMC and can use outside references for navigation and separation with other aircrafts.

IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). These flight conditions assume that we use instruments for navigation and separation with other aircrafts. It can happen that we don’t see anything outside the aircfart, but it is not necessary. Legally we can fly under IFR in both IMC and VMC. It is mainly relevant for EASA, where we can log IFR time in any meteorologial conditions, but for FAA we cannot log instrument time in VMC regardless of our flight rules. And that is one of the essential differences.

Total time. It is the total flight time regardless of the role when we are acting as a crew member or a student.

Dual time. Dual given time means that we provide flight instruction for someone. Dual received time means that we are receiving flight instruction from a certified instructor.

Night time. Basically it’s time after sunset to sunrise, but there are some nuances. For example, FAA counts night landings only after 1 hours after sunset and not later than 1 hour before sunrise. Some EASA countries allow to log night time not earlier than 30 min after sunset and not later than 30 min before sunrise. ICAO and EASA have the same definition, but there are some local regulations, for example, in the CAP393 UK. So it’s better to check local documents to properly log night time. I log night time from sunset to sunrise, and night landings 1 hour after sunset to be legal for both authorities.

Solo time. Usually it means that you are all alone in the aircraft and don’t take aboard even a passenger’s dog regardless whether it has a license and whether it knows how to fly the airplane. That time seems to be relevant only for students. After getting a license nobody cares, only PIC time matters.

Solo acting. It means that only this person use the flight controls. Nobody else should even touch the yoke, pedals or whatever adjusts the flight parameters. For example, it can be even dual received hours with a flight instructor next to you, but the instructor should not touch flight controls.

Instrument time. It means flight time using only flight instruments, without any reference outside the aircraft. EASA world does not use that term (there is IFR time there instead), but for FAA it’s essential. We does not always have clouds to practise (and initially does not even want to fly in the clouds while learning), so FAA allows both actual (flight time in IMC) and simulated (flight time with a view-limiting device like ‘hood’ or ‘foggles’) time. It is possible to log simulated instrument time even in VMC without view-limiting device (‘I used only flight instruments for flying’), but it does not make sense since a view-limiting device is some kind of guarantee of that. The important point for logging actual instrument time – the conditions should be ‘real’ IMC, it usually means in the clouds, not just below the legal VMC minimums. It’s kind of a very contradictory question, but safer to log simulated instrument time only in a view-limiting device, and actual instrument time in the clouds, just to avoid any misinterpretation.

Cross-country time. Basically it’s when we fly not only above the home airport, but there are additional limitations for meeting different criteria. I will explain a bit later.

Total flight time can be logged in any flight when we perform any flight duties.

Dual received means that we have a training flight with the instructor. This time should be logged when we have a flight instructor who logs his dual given time. Usually he wants to even if he doesn’t talk during the flight at all 🙂

IFR flight time can be logged with IFR clearance and usually under the IFR flight plan regardless of meteorological conditions. Instrument hours should be logged in IMC or with a view-limiting device regardless or ‘real’ ATC clearance: for example, the flight instructor can give a ‘simulated’ ATC clearance.

As I’ve already said, EASA and FAA have some differences in logging the flight time.

PIC for the EASA and FAA.

For the EASA everything is easy: you log PIC only when you act as a PIC. It means that only one person can log PIC time. Usually during flight training it’s a flight instructor as a person who assumes responsibility. Dual received time cannot be logged as PIC time.

FAA regulations allow to log PIC time in some more cases. A pilot may log PIC time when he/she is the sole occupant of the aircraft; is the sole manipulator of the controls of an aircraft for which the pilot is rated or has privileges; or is acting as PIC where more than one pilot is required (‘required crewmember’ rule). That is described in FAR 1.1, 61.51 [e].

‘Required crewmember’ usually means flying in a multi-pilot aircraft, but it is not the only case. The most interesting part for a training airplane (for example, small Cessna 152 or 172) is that if a pilot uses a view-limiting device, the second pilot becomes a necessary crewmember in VMC under VFR! The second obvious case is flying with a flight instructor and manipulating the flight controls: in that case both can log PIC time.

The second interesting part is logging cross-country time.

Basically “cross-country” a flight between a point of departure and a point of arrival using standard navigation procedures. FAA gives the definition in 14 CFR 61.1(b)(3)(i). EASA FCL also mentions “following a pre-planned route”.

So for the EASA we can log any flight from the airport A to airport B as a cross-country flight if we plan it and use any navigation (even visual aids).

FAA allows to log as cross-country only flights at least 50 miles from the departure airport for meeting private, instrument or commercial minimums. More details can be found in this great paper from AOPA.

For meeting sport pilot minimums any flight more than 25 miles can be logged.

But the most interesting part is meeting the ATP minimums. It is not even required to have a destination! Any flight further than 50 miles from the departure point can be logged as a cross-country flight regardless whether we landed somewhere else or just returned home.

In all other cases we can use a basic definition. For example, part 135 allows to count as cross-country all flights from A to B, even less than 50 miles.

The nightmare starts if we don’t have an electronic logbook: the paper one just don’t have so many columns to sum up everything. Initially I had only the paper one, so it took some time to properly enter all previous flights to my electronic version and set the parameters (‘cross country more than 50nm’, ‘cross-country less than 50nm’, ‘acting as PIC’ and so on).

Hopefully it will help not to get lost in the documents in regulations. You can ask me for more information 🙂

Aviation Medical in Florida

One needs a US medical examination to fly legally, so it was my first priority for me after I arrived. Yesterday I was not able to visit the doctor, therefore I could not fly as well. So I was sleeping for almost the entire day. Probably that’s just jet lag?

This morning I came to the doctor. The examination was really quick, less than an hour. I got a second class since it’s cheaper and I don’t need the 1st class until my ATP which is still in the far far future.

Now I know my weight in pounds and my height in feet and inches 🙂

The second important procedure is a fingerprint take, which is required for all foreign students. Everything was quick and professional too.

I got my syllabus, maps and books. Nothing really new except for the maps. I was really happy that I had started learning the material in Moscow: the schedule is tight here, and it’s better to know what to do at least in theory. Even now and again I am thinking about studying CPL books during my free time so that I can be better prepared before practical lessons.

Flight training in the US

As I probably mentioned, I want to continue my flight training in the US for various reasons: native English ATC, easy CPL written test compared to the EASA one, and, of course, cheap flight hours compared to Europe… The main reason is that I don’t want to stay on the ground while I’m studying my EASA subjects, so I can obtain a FAA IR, and those hours will count towards my total flight time. Moreover, due to less expensive prices I can make it entirely in the airplane, which looks beneficial compared to a simulator.

Today I got a verification letter from the FAA. It is valid for 6 months, so I am applying for the US visa. After than I will be able to do nothing but wait.

At a first glance it looks better to study the EASA theory in Moscow now if I want to obtain the EASA license. But the simplest way is not always the best one: I believe that with a Russian passport I need both EASA and FAA licenses since I don’t want to miss any opportunity. If some door opens for me, I want to be prepared before it will close.

Anyway, it looks like a great adventure, probably the greatest one in my life so far. We should do whatever we want to do. I love flying, so I should go flying again 🙂

First Class Medical

Today I got my first class medical certificate. For pilots there are two classes in Europe: the first one is the highest, and without it one cannot work as pilot. Before that I had the second one because it is cheaper and totally enough for a private pilot certificate (which one I have now).

Initial first class medical usually should be taken only in a hospital. Then it’s possible to go to aeromedical examiner (some doctor approved by the CAA). I’ve never had that certificate, so the only option was a hospital.

There is only one approved hospital for that in Czech Republic. I made a call, and it turned out that the earliest date when I can do that is August, 14. I supposed to be in Moscow that time, so I started my small research where I else I can get my medical. The closest options were Austria, Poland and Hungary.

I chose Poland. They were ready to make the examination without booking in advance, the price was about 150 euros, and Warsaw is on my way home. For example, in Austria you should pay around 500 euros.

There were no queues, the doctors are nice and professional, and the whole thing took about 4 hours. The result was ready at the same day.

Almost all doctors were not speaking neither English nor Russian. The only doctors who spoke English were the ophthalmologist and the therapist, but anyone else spoke slow and clear in Polish so I could understand them pretty well. For all procedures they also provided instructions in English, so I did not have any problem at all. Now I have an impression that I could learn Polish with a very little effort if I want, it seems very familiar to Russian.

So now I know that I am fit, and it’s really great: I can continue my studies to achieve a higher level!

Visit to the CAA

Today I picked up my freshly-issued license. Everything was OK, except for one small mistake in my home address, and it took some more time because of that. The interior of the building seemed very similar to the Russian Traffic Inspection office (or any other legal department), but there were no queues at the CAA 🙂

At least I found a proper parking space near the CAA. When I had come to take my exam two months ago, I found only P13 “reserved” places. I did not know whether the spots were reserved for the CAA or not, and whether it was legal to park there. In any case, I decided not to take chances, and found another parking area in a mall, in about a 15-minute walk. Today I came just to finish some paperwork, and that’s why I wanted to park somewhere near the building, and I found it. It is P11, which has a barrier and tickets.

Strictly speaking, I am done here, and I can return home, but I drove more than 2000 km, and I’d like to do more than just obtain my papers. That’s why I decided to stay a bit longer, and fly some additional hours.