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Pilots and Their Log Books

This month I’m deviating from flying exploits, but I’ll be back on that trail next time.

Pilots keep log books. Log books are for recording flying time, flight by precious flight. Pilots also love amassing flight hours. For the inexperienced, getting more and more hours becomes a prime goal. A hundred is a major milestone, five hundred – wow! A thousand – incredible! Ten thousand – I might be dead before then.
When you begin your aviation journey you eagerly complete your log book every day. After a while you will have filled the page and can’t wait to complete the next one. Depending on the career path you’ve chosen – lots of short helicopter flights will fill a log book quicker than long-haul airline trips – you will have completed the whole log book and have to open a new one. That’s another exciting milestone. Maybe the question should change from: How many hours have you got? to, How many log books have you? (Five in my case).
Some less than honest pilots use a ‘sharp pencil’ to falsely inflate their hours, which will fill log books more quickly. Others turn the book into a photo album which consumes much space and achieves the same end. There’s nothing dishonest in that, though.
When you get several thousand hours under your belt, the desire to build experience based on a figure assumes a lesser importance. But your log books always remain a valuable record of your career and can awaken memories from decades past, some not even about the flights within them but about other events of the time. Do you remember when …?
My log books verify the accuracy of some of the anecdotes I’ve been relating. The day, the aircraft, the destination, the comments on something unusual – every detail of the flight is there, recorded on the day it happened.
Log books are precious, they’re a significant part of every pilot’s life. Another pilot, who considered himself with-it once told me that the future lay in digital records. It was so much easier, he said, than writing in a book you had to find space to keep. He proudly produced a print-out of flights from his computer, but it was just page after page of type – utterly soulless. There was no story behind it, no feel of his life at the time. Every one of his days from twenty years ago to the present was the same – how boring.
He had a point, though. Had my experience been computerised, the loss of my log book would not have been an issue. When I left the army I had to hand in the book for a final sign off by the divisional authority. It was supposed to be returned to me, but was lost in the bureaucracy somewhere. This caused problems because, in applying for a civil licence, I could not prove my experience. Eventually the army gave me a certificate for my hours and all was well, except that the precious personal record of every flight had been lost.
If you’ve been following these letters, you will remember the first few were about some of my experiences in Hong Kong. I was in the army then, so those tales were written from memory thanks to the loss of my military log book, but for all the other stories the flying record sits on my bookshelf.

I’m busy working on the sequel to Thirty-Four, which mainly takes place in East Africa and delves into the smuggling of wildlife parts. And: you’ve got to wonder how to handle it when you’re accused of a murder that took place before you were born, don’t you?

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