The guys from PlaneLogix offers these tips they’ve learned over the years to help owners improve their logbook maintenance, airplane maintenance, and relationship with their mechanics.
Never keep your logbooks in the plane when you fly.
Many people think if they crash that the logbooks do not matter, and if they are destroyed the insurance company cannot prove any wrongdoing. This is possibly the worst idea.
First of all, check your insurance plan. It is highly likely they will not pay out to you or your loved ones (should you die in the crash) if they do not have maintenance records to learn more about what caused the accident.
Many people think that a safe is all they need to keep their logbooks protected.
Safes have vulnerabilities to fire, water, and even theft. Most importantly, they do not serve as a backup plan should anything happen to your logbooks.
If you have a backup, such as complete PDF scans of your documents, then a safe can be a great place to store the originals, but keep the scans in a separate place to diversify your risk.
Just because your logbooks only leave your safe for the annual does not mean they are safe.
Believe it or not, bringing your logbooks in for an annual or scheduled maintenance can be the riskiest time for those precious documents. It is not the maintenance shop’s responsibility to keep them safe from fire or water or loss. Further, some less scrupulous shops may hold your logbooks ransom if you argue about an unforeseen charge and refuse to pay (Yes, this does happen!).
While having a scanned backup of your logbooks is a fantastic start, that is not all you need.
Since you already did the hard part, go a few steps further to ensure nothing ever happens to your backup. Keep copies stored securely in the cloud (such as Dropbox or Google Drive), on multiple computers at home or the office, and on physical media such as a CD or high quality flash drive. Be disciplined and keep that backup fresh and updated when new records come in. Plan for your backup to fail and you won’t!
Never rely on your maintenance shop to hold onto your records, such as new stickers or entries.
According to FAR 91.417, maintenance shops may dispose of records such as annuals after just one year. Perhaps more surprisingly, most maintenance shops actively dispose of these records as soon as they legally can to reduce their liability.
Utilize excel or a web-based platform to help track time intervals for parts and inspections.
This can save you time and money. More importantly, it can also save your life. Missing the 24 calendar month FAR 91.411 and FAR 91.413 inspections required for IFR flight is surprisingly common and is ultimately the pilot’s responsibility to ensure compliance.
According to AVEMCO, 14% of accidents are maintenance related.
Request the mechanic provide you with a list of anticipated squawks before conducting maintenance on the airplane.
This can help you anticipate the cost of the work that needs to be done on your airplane.
Spend time with your airplane and mechanic during maintenance to learn more about your airplane and its condition.
Most mechanics appreciate the involved owner who cares about maintenance. The more you do this, the better you can communicate issues with your mechanic, ultimately streamlining the maintenance process.
Once a year, go through your logbooks and attempt to organize them as best as possible.
Avoid turning your logbooks into a collage of FAA Form 8130s, work orders, yellow tags, etc. This can reduce the billable hours that your mechanic spends searching through your logbooks for that one FAA Form 337 or AD that he or she needs to prove airworthiness. It also makes your plane more presentable when it comes time to sell.
Keep your logbooks away from liquids and gels — accidents do happen.
One true story we heard involved placing a frozen jug of water on top of a set of logs to keep them in place overnight. The jug exploded, saturated the documents, and, despite laying them out in the hangar to dry, they were destroyed.
Do not procrastinate.
You can pay dearly for failing to put a sticker in your logbook as soon as you get it.