Online logbook program helps pilots keep current

 - September 19, 2006, 6:17 AM

The paperwork demands of a high-performance single- or twin-engine airplane or helicopter are enormous and can be a continuing headache for owners and operators. Aircraft owners Doug Stewart and Greg Ratliff are well aware of this workload and decided to design an Internet-based program that aggregates all the data for both pilot and airplane currency and maintenance into one online system.

The result, AircraftLogs.com, is targeted at owners and operators of complex airplanes such as piston and turboprop singles and twins, light jets and helicopters, although any aircraft owner can enjoy the system’s benefits. [Full disclosure: AircraftLogs.com provided the author with a free account to try the system with his airplane.–Ed.] The program was launched in the middle of last year.

AircraftLogs.com is a tracking system with additional useful features. One such feature is the automatic reminders function, which e-mails the account holder when some event is coming due. When setting up the system, the user can plug
in any item that needs tracking such as pilot currency, including IFR status, medical or biennial flight review due date, required takeoffs and landings in the past 90 days and so on.

For the aircraft, items might include the annual or phase inspection, time-life components, static/altimeter and transponder checks, filter replacement due times, recurring airworthiness directives and Service Bulletins, among others. The user can add more items at any time and set tracking criteria that affect how the due item is displayed.

The main interface users see when they log onto AircraftLogs.com is the pilot or aircraft timer. The timers show which items are due, overdue or getting close. Tracked items are colorized to show their status. Green means the aircraft is good to go, red represents overdue, and yellow signals that a user-selected threshold has been crossed.

If a user, for example, wants a six-month warning of when his aircraft’s static check is due, he can set that as a criterion and will then see a yellow warning when there are six months remaining before the check is overdue. The user can set criteria based on hours, calendar time, cycles or landings. The pilot timer page includes a summary of aircraft timer items so the user doesn’t have to switch between pages.

AircraftLogs.com also includes a full pilot logbook system that instantly updates pilot currency. As the pilot logs each flight in the system, AircraftLogs.com updates its records on IFR, night and 90-day takeoff and landing currency.

Monitoring Discrepancies
One of the most challenging bookkeeping responsibilities of owning an airplane is keeping track of discrepancies, making sure that the maintainers have all the information they need to fix problems and following up to make sure the squawks are resolved. When more than one person owns the aircraft, the squawk-tracking task gains magnitude exponentially, creating a risk that one owner might take off unaware of a critical problem because the other owner didn’t pass on the information quickly enough.

AircraftLogs.com has a simple and effective system to handle this problem, called Squawk Tracker. Anyone with primary account privileges such as an owner or pilot can enter a discrepancy into Squawk Tracker. AircraftLogs.com then automatically displays open squawks on the timer page.

The user can also elect to have an e-mail notice sent to people with account-viewing privileges, by clicking the “contact” button in the Squawk Tracker section. Anyone with privileges, including a maintenance shop, can view the squawks and see their status. The status is assigned by the squawk writer and ranges from “monitoring” to “aircraft not airworthy.”

With Squawk Tracker, everyone who needs to know about a problem is kept in the loop, and whoever takes care of maintenance has a heads-up and can begin preparations to address the problem. This helps ensure that when the aircraft comes in for a maintenance event, a current list of discrepancies is waiting and the pilot doesn’t have to generate a list of half-forgotten intermittent problems that he can barely recall. This also helps multiple pilots who fly the same aircraft keep each other informed of possibly critical problems.

To help owners and operators track costs, AircraftLogs.com includes an expense feature. By plugging in all costs–fuel, maintenance, training, charts and so on–and after a bit of flying, users will see an increasingly accurate view of how much their aircraft costs to operate. Users can add expense and business categories to assign costs to business use of the aircraft.

A large number of reports are available to analyze the cost information, including cost per flight hour or statute mile, passenger costs per seat hour or seat mile and a recently added category, SIFL flights by passenger, which reports on leg-length in statute miles for standard industry fare level calculations.

Owners and operators can start using AircraftLogs.com by tapping into any Web browser. They will have to send copies of the aircraft’s maintenance and the pilot logbooks to AircraftLogs. com, which enters pertinent data into the new user’s account. There is no charge for inputting the past two years of pilot logbook records, but AircraftLogs.com charges $20 per year (single-engine) or $40 per year (multi-engine) to archive maintenance logbooks in Adobe pdf format.

These copies of historical aircraft logbooks are saved online, too, so anyone the user designates can view them, a feature that can come in handy when an aircraft needs maintenance away from home base. Users can also upload any documents they wish to store, such as FAA Form 337s, 8130 forms, yellow tags, receipts
and so on.

AircraftLogs.com charges a monthly fee for the system, depending on the aircraft size and the services desired. Pilots can sign up for AircraftLogs.com for $10 a month, which includes the pilot logbook and expense log. Prices range from $43.75 per month for a piston single to $63.75 per month for a turbine twin for both the pilot logs and aircraft logs services. A 20-percent discount is available with an annual subscription.

Additional viewers designated by the account holder, such as a maintenance shop, FBO or co-owner, don’t incur any extra cost, although the maximum number is limited, depending on the aircraft size, says AircraftLogs.

A maintenance shop or FBO with multiple AircraftLogs.com-using customers can get its own free account so it can use it to assist customers. A shop manager, for example, could view open discrepancies and coming-due items for customer airplanes on AircraftLogs.com.

AircraftLogs.com customers include owners of single-engine piston airplanes to a Learjet 24 operator, according to Stewart. The system doesn’t currently provide maintenance schedules for particular aircraft, but this is one feature that Stewart plans to add in the future.