FAQ: Miscellaneous Regulatory Questions

I Lost My Logbook! What Do I Do?

So, some jerk broke into your car and along with the other stuff he took, walked away with your logbook. Fortunately, the FAA gives us some guidance on what to do.

Before getting to the guidance, though, the FAA gives you a potential baseline. Assuming you already have a certificate or rating that required you to prepare an 8710-1, there is an official record of your time until then and that you have met the training and requirements for that certificate or rating. The 8710-1 itself tells us:

RECORD OF PILOT TIME. The minimum pilot experience required by the appropriate regulation must be entered. It is recommended, however, that ALL pilot time be entered.

So, even though you don’t have to, it’s usually a good idea to put complete up-to-date totals in those flight time boxes, whether or not the box is required for the application.

Now to the guidance the FAA gives us… They are both from FAA Order 8900.1 – Flight Standards Information Management Systems (FSIMS).

The first is from Volume 5 (Airmen Certification), Chapter 1, Paragraph 5-172 (part of what used to be called the Air Transportation Operations Inspector’s Handbook.:

5-172. LOST LOGBOOKS OR FLIGHT RECORDS. Inspectors should advise airmen that they may reconstruct lost logbooks or flight records by providing a signed statement of previous flight time. 

A. Proof of Experience. Airmen may use the following items to substantiate flight time and experience:

•  Aircraft logbooks
•  Receipts for aircraft rentals
•  Operator records
•  Copies of airman medical files
•  Copies of FAA Form 8710-1, “Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application”

B. Obtaining File Copies. Airmen who have lost their logbooks or flight records may request copies of their files from the FAA by writing to the following: FAA Airmen Certification Branch, AVN-460 P.O. Box 25082 Oklahoma City, OK 73125 FAA, Aeromedical Certification Branch P.O. Box 25082 Oklahoma City, OK 73125 

NOTE: Inspectors should encourage pilots to complete the flight time sections of official record forms, even though it would not be required for that specific certificate. These records document a chronological development of flight time in case personal records become lost.

The second is in Volume 5 (Airman Certification), Chapter 2, Paragraph 5-321 tells us:

5-321. LOST LOGBOOKS OR FLIGHT RECORDS. Aeronautical experience requirements must be shown for a person to be eligible for the issuance or to exercise the privileges of a pilot certificate. A pilot who has lost logbooks or flight time records should be reminded that any fraudulent or intentional false statements concerning aeronautical experience are a basis for suspension or revocation of any certificate or rating held. The pilot who has this problem may, at the discretion of the ASI accepting the application for a pilot certificate or rating, use a signed and notarized statement of previous flight time as the basis for starting a new flight time record. Such a statement should be substantiated by all available evidence, such as aircraft logbooks, receipts for aircraft rentals, and statements of flight operators.

 I think you need to read both of those references together to get the full picture. I don’t think that the list under “Proof of Experience” in the second reference is exclusive, but that they are examples of the types of records that could be used to substantiate the notarized statement of flight time that the first reference talks about. To the list, I would add personal calendars, at least for the dates and events (like the day you received your complex endorsement), if not the hours. This is also where photocopies of logbook pages and electronic logbooks, personal or online, would be a great help.

Two final thoughts: If you are going to use personal records as a backup, the records used to reconstruct the logbook should be kept in a safe place. And, it’s not stated, but since a primary use of the reconstructed logbook will be to verify the information in an 8710-1, it would be a good idea to review what you did with the DPE who will be performing the practical test or with a local FSDO inspector.

What is my responsibility as a safety pilot?

A lot of folks seems to think that a safety pilot has very little responsibility unless she also chooses to take on responsibility for the flight by acting as PIC. I’ve seen this issue discussed a number of times (which is, of course, why I have a FAQ on it).

There are two versions of this view of safety pilot responsibility.One is that the only job a safety pilot has is looking for traffic. The related one is that by choosing to also act as PIC, the safety pilot picks up a whole bunch of extra liability. Both views are apparently based on two concepts:

  • A safety pilot picks up no responsibility for a flight unless he’s also PIC.

and it’s evil twin

  • § 91.3(a) means that no one except the PIC has any responsibility for the safety of a flight

I don’t think either is true.

Of course being the hooded pilot’s “eyes” is the safety pilot’s primary role. But I’ve never been able to find the part of 91.109(b) that says that the safety pilot’s role is limited to seeing and avoiding other aircraft. On the other hand, I notice that a recreational (or sport) pilot cannot act as a safety pilot. That despite being able to carry passengers, being rated in category and class, and having a current medical. Wonder how come? Could it possibly be because the FAA wanted someone who was also trained more heavily in navigation and communication, the only two skill sets that separate the recreational from the private certificate?

I also notice that the airplane must have dual controls, and that if a throw-over is in the airplane, the safety pilot (whether or not the PIC!) is given the specific responsibility of determining whether the flight can be made safely. Sounds just a little more serious than “hey stupid, turn left!” So I really doubt that a safety pilot’s responsibility ends with empty skies.

And, although no doubt a safety pilot does pick up some additional responsibility when she chooses to act as PIC, I’m not really sure that, practically, it’s really that much. I ran a brief challenge in one or two groups: tell us about a case in which a safety pilot who was acting as PIC was held responsible for something solely on the basis that the pilot had assumed PIC responsibilities. I haven’t seen any. The closest is this an NTSB case that found as probable cause, “the pilot’s failure to maintain proper glide path during a practice instrument approach, which resulted in an in-flight collision with terrain. Contributory factors to the accident were the dark night light condition and the safety pilot’s inadequate monitoring of the practice approach.” The report is here.

Notice that there was no mention in the report of whether or not the safety pilot was acting as PIC. If anything, the reference to the safety pilot as “passenger” suggests that he was not. So, at least in that case, it seems the safety pilot is being held responsible for being a bad safety pilot. The lesson I get is, “If you are going to act as a safety pilot, don’t take it as a joke. It is an important job, so do it correctly.”

Here’s an example of something we’re all concerned with these days: Let’s say you are acting as safety pilot and the flying pilot busts, say a stadium TFR. I would expect the safety pilot to be looking at the possibility of a violation. But, again, that would be for not performing safety pilot duties properly and would have nothing to do with their status as PIC or not PIC or logging something or not logging something.

Do I have to view the aircraft logs when I rent or borrow an airplane?

FAR 91.403(a) provides that the “owner or operator of an aircraft is primarily responsible for maintaining that aircraft in an airworthy condition. The balance of 91.403 and the regulations following it prohibit operating an aircraft that does not meet airworthiness requirements. As examples, 91.407 prohibits operation after maintenance without the proper maintenance entries and a return to service; 91.409 prohibits operation without a current annual inspection (or 100 hour inspection if applicable); 91.411 prohibits operation under IFR in controlled airspace without the required  altimeter/static inspections. Exactly who is an “operator” under the FAR tends to vary a bit depending on the context, but, at least with respect to a determination of airworthiness, the term encompasses “the piloting of aircraft” (see, i.e. FAR 1.1). So, aside from the PIC’s ultimate responsibility for the safety of flight under FAR 91.3, the FAA specifically imposes on the PIC the obligation to determine if the aircraft is airworthy.

So, how much can a renter pilot (or club member or aircraft borrower) rely on others including the owner or fleet operator? Not too much, according to the few cases on the subject.

Administrator v. Southworth, is a 1999 enforcement action in which a pilot was charged with a violation of 91.409(a)(1), operating a rental 152 without a current annual. The pilot argued  he was “justified in assuming that the aircraft was in an airworthy condition when it was offered for rent” and that “there is no requirement in the FAR that a pilot, before he rents an aircraft, check its logbooks to ensure that the aircraft has had all the requisite inspections.”

That was rejected by the NTSB. Pointing out that the pilot never even asked to see the logbooks, the NTSB tells us blind reliance on the owner/FBO — presuming without inquiry that an aircraft offered for rent would comply with all airworthiness requirements — was an unreasonable assumption to make and does not mitigate the PIC’s obligation to determine airworthiness.

So, how far does this obligation go? Does reliance at some point become reasonable? Can we rely on the aircraft inspection and maintenance summary sheet provided by some flight schools, FBOs and co-ownership groups as part of the dispatch documents to avoid the need for pilots to go into the aircraft logs on every flight? Unfortunately, the answer is a solid “maybe.”

The Southworth case appears to hold out some hope. It points out that the pilot merely assumed the airplane would be airworthy because it was being rented. There was no inquiry at all. Is there some inquiry that would make reliance on the FBO reasonable? In this respect, the NTSB decision distinguishes Southworth from an earlier “out of annual” case, Administrator v. Miller:

The instant case can be distinguished from Administrator v. Miller, 5 NTSB 407 (1985), where a respondent also had rented and operated an aircraft when it had not passed an annual inspection within the previous 12 months. We noted that Mr. Miller relied on his own personal experience with the plane over the previous six or seven years, representations by the owner regarding the condition of the aircraft, as well as “occasional reviews of its maintenance records,” when he assumed that the aircraft had been properly maintained.

Problem is, Miller does not give us any real comfort. The pilot in Miller, despite his general knowledge of the aircraft maintenance history and records, was still found to have violated the FAR. All he got for his efforts was a recognition that his transgression was unintentional and received a reduction in the sanction —  his pilot certificate was suspended for 15 days rather than 30.

So where does that leave us? Ultimately, it is our responsibility as PIC to ensure that the aircraft we fly and teach in meet airworthiness requirements. Faced with an airworthiness violation in a case where a pilot relied on an FBO or club dispatch sheet, would the FAA accept it as excusing the violation or will it have required the pilot to go further and personally check the aircraft logs? We don’t know. We do know they’re not always correct; I had a student who, for his private checkride, found that an “annual” had been signed by an A&P, but not by an IA. The airplane had flown for a few months without anyone noticing.

The safest regulatory answer is, of course, to check the maintenance logs. Perhaps a more practical answer is to use a “trust but verify” approach. If the organization you fly with provides a dispatch sheet, use it but at least periodically verify it’s accuracy. That will likely not eliminate the risk of a violation but may reduce it.

PLEASE NOTE: This review of the responsibility of a renter pilot for aircraft airworthiness violations was prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. Legal advice depends on the specific circumstances of each situation. As a general review, the information may not be up-to-date and cannot be applied to any specific set of circumstances. Thus, it cannot replace the advice of an attorney. No attorney-client relationship is being created by this review nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, you should consult with a competent attorney authorized to practice in your state.