If I only have a private pilot license, and am not the pilot in command, should I log my flight time?

If so, what are the limits of this? i.e. is that as true in the backseat as it is in the front seat? Must I have that type rating?

  • $\begingroup$ Depends on what you want to document. $\endgroup$ – user7241 Dec 25 '17 at 11:56

No, you should not*.

In my opinion, you should limit your logbook to records of your own flight experience. This would include any time spent training, as PIC, or as required crew.

The time you can log as PIC is that which you spend as the sole manipulator of the controls, the sole occupant, or as the pilot in command when the required crew is >1. Here's an article from an FAA FSDO describing the logging of PIC time in more detail. Rod Machado has some good coverage of this as well.

If you're just hanging out in the airplane, it doesn't matter if you're in the front seat or the back seat. If you're receiving instruction, you should get an entry and a logbook endorsement from the instructor you're flying with. Most General Aviation aircraft don't require a type rating, so I'm unsure what the context of your final question is.


* It's worth noting that you can technically put whatever you want in your logbook, though it's not a great idea; when it comes time to fill out an FAA 8710 form for later ratings, it can get confusing. In my opinion, you still shouldn't log any time, but if you're just wanting to record flights that you took with friends, that's fine. As an instructor who's had to slog through some weird logbooks, I'd really, really encourage you to track that elsewhere, though. Your logbook is exactly that - it's your logbook, for the logging of your flight time, and a record of your flight experience and training.

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    $\begingroup$ Riffing on the point that you can technically put whatever you want into your logbook, it's worth noting that technically, any flight that starts at one airport and ends at another is a cross-country flight, even if they're only a few miles apart. However, for the purposes of getting certain licenses and ratings, only flights longer than 50nm can be counted. This can make a hash out of figuring out your cross-country time when applying for a new rating. I think it might simply be better not not even log the short cross-countries. $\endgroup$ – Edward Falk Dec 18 '13 at 6:19
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    $\begingroup$ And riffing on that: the famous Dick Rutan/Deana Yeager round-the-world flight couldn't be logged as cross-country time because they landed at the same airport they took off from. $\endgroup$ – Edward Falk Dec 18 '13 at 6:21
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    $\begingroup$ If you're looking to maintain a record of non flying time for whatever reason, just keep a second log book with those entries. It doesn't seem to be worth the confusion it could create. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Dec 19 '13 at 3:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Kyle Another option is to use a "spare" column in your logbook for passenger/non-PIC/"just having fun" time, and just not add it to "total duration of flight" or similar columns. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Dec 27 '13 at 6:24

Yes, log it.

Your logbook is your record of your flight experience. Use a line in your logbook to remember a flight with a friend or a warbird flight you took at an air show. If I'm a passenger in the right seat of a small aircraft and I'm paying attention I am probably learning something. If I'm currently working towards my instrument rating and I'm sitting in the backseat of a friend's instrument rating lesson then I'm almost certainly learning things that I wouldn't get while actually flying the plane. Record those experiences for yourself.

However, the numbers columns for that entry are going to be empty. No landings, no flight time, none of that. You wouldn't want to accidentally use those flights for currency or ratings. AOPA has a good article interpreting the FARs rules on logging time.

But you can use an empty column for passenger numbers or just use your comments section.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree completely! I don't do it myself, but this is a totally valid answer for those who plan to do so. $\endgroup$ – egid Dec 18 '13 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ I love this answer. As a PPL student currently (almost done!) I can say that when I've gone up in the right seat with a non-CFI friend acting as PIC, even though I'm not required crew and not receiving qualified instruction, I'm learning and benefiting from the experience so I want to log it because that experience sets me apart from the next guy who doesn't have that experience. To avoid inadvertently counting those hours and landings for recency/currency, it does make sense not to put entries in those columns. $\endgroup$ – hemp Jan 29 '16 at 6:30
  • $\begingroup$ Attempting to follow the advice in this answer is not allowed under the FARs. See my answer below. $\endgroup$ – Carlo Felicione Jul 6 '16 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ That makes no sense, logically or per the FARs. What goes in your logbook is up to you / it is your logbook, not the FAAs. Their only concern is that you can back up the hours and endorsements you claim to have, there are no specifications stating what you can't put in a logbook. You can write short stories in it if you want to. Leave the hour columns blank for those flights where you weren't required crew or giving/receiving instruction and it's all gravy. $\endgroup$ – hemp Feb 16 '17 at 7:31
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    $\begingroup$ That said, if you do intend to make a career out of flying then you should treat everything in the aviation scope as a professional would. A professional would not write short stories in their logbook. What is permitted and what is wise are not always the same. For me, I have a lovely career outside of aviation and no intention of changing course, so my logbook is primarily kept for nostalgia and secondarily to prove I'm airworthy. $\endgroup$ – hemp Feb 16 '17 at 7:40

Adding to what egid said, you can only log flight time as a crew member if you're filling a role as a required crew member.

There was an enforcement action many years ago against a pilot who was flying right seat in a small cargo plane because his employer's rules required two people in the cockpit. He figured that since his employer required him to be there, it made him a required crew member and so he logged the time.

However, the FAA regs did not require him to be there, so in their view, he was not a required crew member and they took action against him for falsifying his logs.

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    $\begingroup$ Please note that ive removed the extra question from your answer - it is kinda fun, but not the StackExchange way. Answers should only be answers. $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Dec 18 '13 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough. I'll ask in a comment then: when could all three people in a C172 log PIC time at the same time? $\endgroup$ – Edward Falk Feb 21 '17 at 1:51

To answer the original question no, you cannot log flight time as a passenger in an aircraft.

AOPA's website has a pretty good answer.


The PIC is, by Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs), responsible for the safe operation of the flight (FAR 1.1, 91.3). At any given time, there can only be one acting PIC on a flight, no matter how many pilots are on board the aircraft. To legally act as PIC, a private, commercial, and airline transport pilot must have a current medical certificate and have all required endorsements, ratings, and recency of experience for the type of aircraft being flown and the flight conditions under which the flight is conducted (FAR 61.3, 61.31, 61.56, 61.57). Sport pilots can act as PIC with a valid and current driver's license in lieu of the FAA medical (FAR 61.23). Before a flight is initiated, an agreement should be made to determine who is to be acting as PIC.

So you'll have to hold a current medical certificate for the type of flight operation being undertaken, the appropriate pilot certificate for type of flight operation being undertaken, and have sole manipulation of the flight controls of an aircraft you are properly endoresd or type-rated for.

  • $\begingroup$ OK, now I'm confused. I thought if e.g. you were a licensed pilot receiving instruction, both you and the instructor would log PIC time. You, as the sole manipulator of the controls, and the instructor as the person responsible for the flight. $\endgroup$ – Edward Falk Feb 21 '17 at 1:53

Should you log flight time as a passenger?


  • Logbooks represent many things, including a record of time and training to be used toward future certificates and ratings, as well as currency to comply with various regulations.

  • What you write in your log book is up to you as long as you record the flight information for those flights needed to substantiate your time


  • It is important that airmen are aware of regulations related to logbook records to avoid undue fines, or even suspension of their certificate/s!

  • you cannot log flight time as a passenger in an aircraft.


Yes, join a frequent flyer program and log "passenger miles". This will make you a better passenger with additional benefits. Of course, these logs document the passenger loyalty, not some needed experience.


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