I’ve been asked a couple of times how I log my flight times and estimates in-flight. If you’ve watched any of my pilot vlogs on YouTube you’d have seen I use a kneeboard strapped to my right leg which has a few pages in it.
Firstly there’s the flight log template (we’ll get to that in a second), then I have a traffic page where I can write down any traffic that Air Traffic Control give me when flying IFR, or to note any traffic that I hear on the area frequency that might be a conflict even when I’m flying VFR. Then I have a sheet with some basic calculations I might need in flight (worst case take off and landing distances, speeds for the aircraft I’m flying, etc) and finally lots and lots of spare sheets of paper to make notes and write down ATC instructions.
Flight log template
The flight log I use has evolved over the years, I’ve kept each iteration and the one I’ve included at the end of this post is version 8. Feel free to download it and check it out, but please PLEASE make sure that even before you think of using this in flight you check with your flying instructor first. Remember this is the way I do it, it’s not the best way, and it’s not necessarily a good way for you to log your flights, but if you’re curious then by all means check it out.
From top to bottom here’s what’s on the log:
- boxes to write in the Area winds, freezing level (FZL) and the TAS of the aircraft I’m flying
- PSN: the waypoint or aerodrome name
- LSALT: lowest safe altitude, required for IFR but I calculate it for VFR flights as well, just in case I need to upgrade
- FL or ALT: planned flight level or altitude for that leg of the flight
- TRK: the magnetic track for that leg
- HDG: the magnetic heading, calculated based on the wind drift
- G/S: the ground speed for that leg
- DIST: the distance for that leg
- ETI: estimated time interval, how long I’ve calculated that leg will take
- PLN EST: my first estimate for arriving at that waypoint
- REV EST: any revised estimate, usually calculated at a 1/3 1/2 or 2/3 distance on that leg
- ATA ATD: actual time of arrival or actual time of departure, ie when I was actually at that waypoint
The next box is the fuel log where I write the time of switching tanks to remind myself when to do the next change. I back this up with MSG alerts on the Garmin 430W and usually switch tanks every 30 minutes. I’ve recently updated this since flying the Cirrus to include a log of the fuel tank gauge readout so I can keep track of fuel usage as well. That’s a simple log of Left = X and Right = Y so after a few tank changes I can make sure fuel is being used at the expected rate.
Finally, the TAXI, CLR RTE stuff is for departures from a Class D aerodrome. Moorabbin being my home airport and a Class D aerodrome, I usually depart IFR into controlled airspace and for that we need a clearance into Class C, plus a transponder code for IFR and our first frequency. I like to have the spaces pre-written on my flight plan so I can quickly write in the instructions when ATC give them to me (typically when taxying) rather than writing out a long clearance and frequency instruction when you’re trying to avoid that C152 that’s coming off the runway…
I then print a copy out in A5 and fill in all the bits I can before the day of a flight. Then once I have the weather for the flight, I fill in the remaining bits (HDG, GS, etc).
Download my flight plan template here: FlightPlan-v8(IFR)
PLEASE check with your flying instructor before you even think of using this.
That’s how I do it, let me know the format you have for your flight log in the comments below, I’d love to get some tips on improvements.