I had fallen two-plus years behind on entering my flight times into my electronic logbook, but as of last week I am all caught up. Getting behind was a mistake because an electronic record of one's flight time can be invaluable. And the more flight time you rack up, the more valuable that data can be. Especially when filling out a Form 8710-1 before a check ride, also known as an Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application form.
The FAA wants to know some fairly obscure information on this form, like night instruction received and cross-country instruction received. And most logbooks do not provide a good way to record this stuff so that at the end of the day (or night) you have a running total. Filling out the Form 8710-1 accurately is important because it is a legal snapshot of your flight experience. Should you ever lose your logbook or have it stolen, the importance of a properly filled out 8710 will become obvious. Many electronic logbook programs will generate a Form 8710-1 for you and even do some basic checking to make sure you meet the aeronautical experience requirements for a particular rating or certificate.
The biggest benefit is that an electronic logbook does the tedious arithmetic for you and many will generate graphs and reports of your time grouped by aircraft category, class, and type. If you're flying professionally, you may primarily fly just one aircraft type. I was surprised to learn that over the years I have logged PIC time in nearly 20 different types of aircraft. I was equally surprised to see that I regularly log instructor time in nine different types.
The desire to have all my time in an electronic format was motivated by my needing to fill out yet another application - Form 8710-10 - Designated Pilot Examiner Candidate Application. Yes, I'm considering going over to the Dark Side. This form wants some pretty specific flight times, like instrument instruction given broken down aircraft class, number of hours of instructtion given to candidates persuing an instrument rating. The electronic logbook I used lets me create some custom fields, but I had to go back through a bunch of dates and enter the correct number of hours.
The process of becoming a DPE is fairly simple, provided everything goes smoothly. Once a DPE application has been accepted, the applicant is notified that they may take the DPE knowledge test. This computer-based test is administered like any other FAA knowledge test, but a minimum score of 80% is required if you wish to be put in the DPE pool. After passing the knowledge test and being put in the pool, you wait for an opening to occur and for a call from your local Flight Standards District Office. If you are not contacted for an interview within two years, you must reapply and take the knowledge test again. If you don't apply and your name is not in the DPE candidate pool, you can't be contacted if you FSDO decides they need another DPE. In anticipation of my application being accepted, I'm already studying for the DPE knowledge test, but who knows how long I might have to wait for the opportunity to become a designated examiner. As Woody Allen said, "80 percent of success is just showing up."
And I also completed another application form - in May I'll be running in the Bay-to-Breakers. As a youngster (read 20 something), I used to run 10K races and completed one marathon, but this will be my first time running since lower back surgery several years ago. Like anything in life, preparing for this race has taken (and will continue to take) some careful training. Since many of the non-seeded running wear costumes, a friend asked me what I was going as. "A balding, middle aged, white guy" was my response.