For pilots who fly frequently and need to log their time accurately, keeping a paper logbook can be a real pain in the fundament. Even if you only fly occasionally and always in the same aircraft, logging time can be important. Especially when you need to generate a Form 8710 for an FAA check ride. I've used an electronic logbook for several years in addition to my hardcopy logbook. I recently found that I'd let my electronic version fall behind by several months. The further it fell behind, the more I dreaded the inevitable hours of drudgery that would be required to bring it up to date. Add to that the fact that there always seem to be arithmetic errors in my paper logbook, no matter how careful I am.
My electronic logbook had fallen behind on previous occasions, which got me to analyzing just why this was the case. I'm a tech-savvy sort of pilot and I use my laptop for a variety of aviation-related tasks, so it wasn't technophobia. Then it hit me. The reason was so obvious: The electronic logbook I was using is a Windows-based application and I'm primarily a Mac user. This meant that I had to first launch my virtual Windows environment on my Macbook before I could enter my times. After getting the application going, I had to deal with Windows-style user interface conventions, which is one of the main reasons I don't use Windows.
I had investigated Mac-based logbook programs in the past. Since I wasn't sure I'd like a new logbook program and I had thousands of hours to enter, I was hesitant to migrate. Two things pushed me over the threshold. One was the realization that my DPE application had expired and I was going to need to tabulate some weird statistics to re-apply. The other was my recent acquisition of an iPhone.
The iPhone has help simplify my life as a flight instructor, especially for the two or three times a week when I commute to the airport on my bicycle. The iPhone lets me access the Mac calendar that I use for my teaching schedule, it provides an email interface as well as a web browser that I can use to access aircraft scheduling sites. And of course I can use it to call Walmart ... er ... I mean Lockheed-Martin Flight Service. And it all syncs up automatically with my Macbook at home, allowing me to leave my Macbook behind and carry a lot less weight on my bike.
I've installed a few apps from the iTunes store and this got me to thinking that someone must have created an aviation logbook app that would sync with a Mac-based application. It didn't take long to discover that such a combination of products already exists in the form of LogTen Pro and LogTen Mobile. But before I committed to the whole shooting match, I wanted to be sure my investment in hours of data entry for my old electronic logbook would not be lost.
I was able to export my old electronic logbook as a comma-separated value (CSV) file. Next I downloaded a trial version of LogTen Pro and began The Great Import Experiment. It took a bit of massaging of the CSV file to get things right (just a few mass search/replace commands in TextEdit) and then I was ready to import. LogTen Pro makes importing data easy by providing a field-driven selection process that allows you to map fields from your CSV file to the LogTen Pro fields. After about 25 minutes of experimenting, it was clear that importing all my old electronic data into LogTen Pro on my MacBook would be successful. So I purchased a license on-line, entered the key I received by email, and I was ready to import my old data.
I spent about 4 hours over the next three or four days entering the data from my paper logbook and correcting some errors I found in the data I had imported. While this sounds like a lot of work, it actually took far less time than entering the information in the old PC-based logbook I had been using. In the process, I became very familiar with LogTen Pro's user interface. Most of what I saw I liked, though I do have a few minor complaints.
One issue was that I specified "Instructor" as my user profile and LogTen made the inconvenient assumption that all my flight time was dual instruction given. That was easy enough to get around as was adding some custom fields that I need to track (hours of instrument and multi-engine instruction given, for example).
There are several features that make LogTen Pro powerful and easy to use. You can configure all the aircraft types that you fly and as an instructor, I fly a bunch. LogTen Pro also remembers each aircraft and has an auto-complete feature that makes it easy to enter registration numbers. Once you've told it what aircraft type is associated with a particular registration number, the aircraft class, category, and type are automatically filled in when you enter a flight. While this might not be as important to folks who fly just one type of aircraft, it's a huge time-saver for me.
You can also print out your logbook in a variety of popular formats, such as the one used by the venerable Jeppesen Professional Pilot Logbook.
If you are a professional pilot, you can enter the time you reported for duty so that LogTen Pro and LogTen Mobile can track your duty limits for the day, week, month, and year. There are too many features to describe here and while you might not need all of them, I've found that LogTen Pro contains all the bells and whistles I need.
After getting my LogTen Pro logbook in order, I was ready to commit to LogTen Mobile on my iPhone. I'll write about my impressions of LogTen Mobile in a separate post. Suffice to say that I've used both products for several weeks with favorable results. I'm able to use those few minutes of idle time throughout the day to enter my flight times and that sure beats forgetting to enter my times electronic form and having to spend hours to get up to date. In fact, I've yet to enter any new flights in my paper logbook. Right now, all my new flights are logged in electronic format. And of course I do back-ups on a regular basis.
If LogTen Pro interests you, just click here to download a trial version or to purchase LogTen Pro.