Editor's Log

October 2002 Issue

Remarkable Past

Logbooks’ legal purpose shouldn’t prevent you from learning from yourself

Recently when closing out a logbook and starting a new one, I wandered back through the “remarks” column to see what memories might come forth. I was surprised, however, when it turned out that the majority of my most memorable flights had nothing in that column, or the remarks were limited to instrument approach flown or some other flight minutia.

The reason, of course, was because the flights that stand out most vividly usually involve something I don’t really want to reduce to writing. Yeah, these are the flights where you drive away from the airport with the unsettling feeling that you’ve just dodged disaster.

It’s interesting how those disasters evolve as the years pass and the hours accumulate, too. For example, my first logbook contains an entry in which I logged simply “x-wind ldg” as if it’s a feat of which to be proud. I had about 75 hours total time and had not flown a 152 since getting my private certificate nearly four months earlier.

On this particular flight, however, I was taking up a passenger who had never been in a light plane before. We made the same 51-mile trip I’d flown on my first cross-country flight. On landing, with a crosswind from the right, I nearly lost it off the left of the runway. I don’t recall how strong the wind actually was, but in my mind’s eye I see a mild breeze that would hardly register anymore.

On another early flight, my remarks only include the names of some friends I was taking for a ride. My memory of the flight, however, includes a half-hearted calculation of weight and balance in which I estimated their weights without asking and ordered fuel “to the tabs” but didn’t really object when they were fuller than that.

The takeoff roll was longer than normal, but I wasn’t used to flying Warriors at max gross, either. Rotation, however, was another matter. Looking back, it’s clear either the cg was aft of the limit or I’d neglected to set the trim properly. The airplane was probably overloaded, because I recall it flew much better after 10 or 15 gallons of fuel had been burned.

There are other memories in old logbooks as well. Instructors who overwhelmed me with poorly briefed tasks. Those who pencil-whipped BFRs or instrument checks. The one who absolutely, positively refused to demonstrate stalls in the Mooney I’d just bought.

But lest you think all the memories are bad, there are plenty that bring a smile. My first real instrument approach by myself. The flight home after my faded Mooney got a stunning new paint job. My first trip to Oshkosh for AirVenture. Taking delivery of a new Citabria.

The regs are confusing about what you can log and specific about what you must log. But travel backward in time and think of your flying experience, and you may come up with some new ideas about what you ought to log.

-Ken Ibold