The Digital Straw that Broke the Paper Logbook’s Back
“The Tipping Point is the epic moment when an idea, trend, or behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and then spreads like wildfire.”
–Malcolm Gladwell, author
If you’re a commercial or fractional aircraft operator, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with FAA AC 120-68J – that’s the one that requires air carriers and other operators to report their pilots’ employment history, training, and other qualifications via the FAA’s new electronic database.
Along with a host of things, the systems modernization effort’s primary goal is to help flag pilots with less than desirable safety and training histories. No doubt you’ve heard tell of many pilots who claim to have some rating or another but “can’t find” the log entry that proves it.
While we’ve been anticipating it for a while, it’s pretty clear that the AC will be one of the tipping points that ushers in the transition from paper logbooks to an all-digital format. And, it’s a good bet that it won’t be long until from the day you begin your training, you’ll be required to keep all of your logs electronically.
Of course, the next digital domino to fall will be A&P certifications, and then the aircraft’s operational and maintenance records themselves. It doesn’t take much foresight to see a day that paper logbooks have gone the way of wood and fabric wings – at least in corporate and business aviation operations. And that’s probably a very good thing.
Digital logs eliminate all of the issues with paper logs, including no more writing in notations in tiny boxes or worrying about lost or incorrect records. Digital makes everything easily updateable, searchable, and sharable.
Lenders love digital logs.
It’s not only the FAA and prospective employers who will benefit from the switch to electronic logs. No doubt lending institutions will place added value on aircraft having the most accurate logbooks possible. It’s the only way to support the maintenance history of any aircraft they’re asked to finance.
“The accuracy of the logbooks is critical when we are determining the value of any airplane,” explains Jim Blessing, President, AirFleet Capital, Inc. “The logs are the only way we have to verify that all the required inspections and maintenance have been accomplished correctly. We’ll walk away from any aircraft with incomplete logbooks.”
“Like having an airplane on an engine maintenance program, digitizing the logbooks is seen as a value-add to any aircraft today,” he said. “Owners don’t appreciate how much of their aircraft’s value is tied up in their maintenance logs. With digital logs, there’s never a worry about loss or having them held hostage by a disgruntled employee. It has happened.”
Tony Kioussis, President & CEO of Asset Insights LLC added, “Considering the negative impact lost aircraft logs have on its value, not to mention the additional cost to recreate any lost records, every aircraft owner should be viewing records digitization as part of their overall insurance strategy.”
Blessing said that, while he doesn’t see any FAA requirement for digitizing aircraft maintenance records happening soon, he does agree that there’s no doubt that lenders will look favorably on this kind of investment by the aircraft’s owner/operator.
“The tipping point for us is having the ability to digitally track the ongoing maintenance on an aircraft we finance,” he explained. “If we see the owner is skipping inspections or an inspection has expired, we know there’s a problem and can take steps to protect our investment.”
“Technology is advancing and pushing in that direction already,” Blessing added. “Personally, I don’t think it will be too long before the aircraft OEMs go to all digital records from the day the aircraft is delivered. Once that happens, the aftermarket will follow closely along.”
“It won’t be long before aircraft whose records are not digitized will be suffering a valuation penalty at the time of sale,” Kioussis stated. “I fully expect the ‘tipping point’ for records digitization to come during the next year – two at the most.”
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