Your Ownership Flight Log
You might keep a personal logbook tracking your every flight, right down to the tenth of an hour. Inside those pages might be an entire career of adventures. But, if you're like the majority of pilots, you've given up hour tracking long ago, and instead log just what is needed to ensure that you maintain your currency. Even more rare is a private aircraft owner that tracks all the flights he takes in his/her airplane. Just like personal logbooks, many owners feel that flight logging in their airplane is best left to flight schools who bill customers by the hour. And this is a lost opportunity.
Serious athletes track their progress. Not on a weekly basis, not even on a daily basis. Using modern technology, coaches and athletes can track performance every second of the day. Using this wealth of information gathered by transducers placed all over, it is possible to measure a person's fatigue level, and determine the amount of stress they can reasonably be expect to be able to endure in order to improve. This pinpoint accuracy means workouts are more focused and beneficial, while rest periods can be cut to the minimum required.
As an airplane owner, you should take this scientific (if borderline number crunchy) outlook on tracking your airplane's usage. As we talked about in our short article on propellers, by having detailed usage information at your fingertips, it is much easier to determine if your actual missions differ from what you think they actually are. Trust us, it isn't uncommon to see someone who thinks they're a big cross country flyer, when their average flight takes them only 50 miles away from home. When it comes time to make important equipment decisions, by having a log of information at your fingertips detailing your mission, you can make informed decisions on how to proceed. Whether this means changing your propeller's pitch, adding a new STC, or increasing your engine's horsepower. Everything in aviation is a tradeoff, so you need to be sure what you are sacrificing is not going to hurt you more than what you can tolerate.
Even more so, however, is the fact that having flight data can make troubleshooting issues much easier. By having trend monitoring from your engine that includes CHT, EGT, Fuel Flow, etc., a problem can be noticed, analyzed, and addressed in a quantitative (not qualitative) manner. Airlines have taken this to the point that their airplanes self-report information to dispatch during a flight for later analysis. The results can mean less fuel required the next time they fly a route, or that maintenance items can be added to the list of "to-dos" that the ground team needs to address before the next flight before the airplane even is in range of its destination.
And, although you probably don't have a ground crew awaiting each of your arrivals, your data is still important. Services exist now that let owners collaborate with outside experts to analyze data to get to the heart of what can seem puzzling numbers. This system is much more scientific than days of yesteryear, when owners would come back from flying, and say to their mechanic: "She seems to be runnin' a bit rough, Otie!"
So start taking some numbers down. Even if you don't have access to a full engine monitoring system, take advantage of the information sample sheets we provide all new customers to take the data that you can. Every little bit of information can provide valuable insight in the future, when you could be scratching your head, or drooling over new equipment that you "need to have."