Pilot Safety: Safety Pilots and Logging Requirements

pilot safetySometimes it’s difficult for pilots to fully understand the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules dealing with pilot safety. Pilots are often confused about the requirements for logging hours, which also falls under pilot safety. However, there are some simple tips to follow to keep the passengers, crew and aircraft safe.

The Pilot in Command 

According to the FAA, the pilot in command (PIC) has final authority and responsibility for the operation of the flight and pilot safety. In addition, the pilot in command must hold the appropriate category, class and type rating that permits him to conduct the flight. Pilots in command are directly responsible for the operation of the aircraft, and, during an in-flight emergency, may deviate from FAA rules to the extent necessary to meet that emergency. However, a written report of the deviation must be provided to the FAA to confirm proper pilot safety procedures were followed.

Simulated Instrument Flights and Pilot Safety 

The FAA states that “no person may operate a civil aircraft in simulated instrument flight” unless the other control seat is occupied by a safety pilot that possesses at least a private pilot certificate. The safety pilot’s certificate must be for the category and class ratings appropriate for that aircraft. In addition, the safety pilot must have adequate vision forward and to each side of the aircraft. In most cases, the aircraft must be equipped with fully functioning dual controls, although there are exceptions to this pilot safety requirement. These exceptions include a determination by the safety pilot that the flight can be conducted safely and that the person manipulating the controls has the proper private pilot certificate.

Logging Hours 

There are requirements for logging PIC hours during flight. The pilot in command must be the sole manipulator of the controls, be the sole occupant of the aircraft or be acting as pilot in command of an aircraft on which more than one pilot with similar certifications is on board. In a case where two pilots with similar certifications are flying together, one may fly the outbound flight, while the other flies the inbound flight. In such cases, one pilot acts as the safety pilot on one flight, while the roles are reversed on the second. The pilot who is not flying under instruments may log PIC time, but not cross country time. Both pilots may log Total Flight Time and SEL time equal to the PIC time. Important facts to consider are:

When flying under the hood, a pilot must write the name of the safety pilot in their logbook. It is also good practice to do the same when acting as a safety pilot for someone else.

  • The safety pilot is responsible for the safety of the flight, so if something happens, they are held accountable. Some pilots may not be comfortable with sharing pilot safety responsibilities, and may choose not to designate a safety pilot. In this case, they cannot log PIC time.

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3 thoughts on “Pilot Safety: Safety Pilots and Logging Requirements

  1. The discussion on logging time is incomplete and partially incorrect. To take the last issue first, the pilot flying doesn’t have an option “not to designate a safety pilot,” unless he simultaneously chooses not to fly under the hood. As stated earlier in this post, you must have a qualified safety pilot if you’re going to fly under “simulated instrument conditions” (i.e., under the hood/foggles).

    As to logging PIC time, the pilot flying can always log PIC time, as long as he’s rated for the aircraft (ASEL in most cases), under FAR 61.51(e)(i). Whether the pilot flying is rated for anything else (say, an instrument rating if the flight is happening in the clouds) is irrelevant. A safety pilot can only log PIC time under the provisions of FAR 61.51(e)(iii). This section requires that the safety pilot “act[] as pilot in command” of the aircraft, and the SP would thus be (as noted above) the final authority and responsibility for the flight. If the SP agrees to assume this responsibility, and the pilot flying agrees to yield that authority, then and only then can the SP log the time as PIC.

    The safety pilot need not assume that responsibility in order to act as a safety pilot. In that case, the SP will not be able to log PIC time, but still acts as a safety pilot.

  2. Thanks for the clarity you provided regarding SP PIC logging rules. It helps with the ambiguity that most of us don’t or didn’t fully understand.

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