The FAA regulates logging time in FAR 61.51. There are plenty of questions about logging PIC time, as well as SIC time. Another type remains: what can be logged as total time? It's only mentioned once:

Total flight time or lesson time.

It is clear that any time logged as dual, PIC, or SIC can be logged as total time. Is total time merely the sum of those, minus any overlap, or is there a situation where total time can be logged but none of the others?

In particular, two situations arise:

  • I'm at the controls of an aircraft I'm not rated for (i.e. an ASEL pilot in the right seat of a multi-engine aircraft, where the other pilot is appropriately rated and not a CFI). I can't log PIC, SIC, or dual - but can I log total time?

  • In a plane I'm rated for, I pass the controls to a non-certificated passenger. I'm not a CFI. I cannot log PIC, SIC, or dual while my passenger is the sole manipulator of the controls, but I am acting as the PIC for this portion of the flight. Can I log this as total time?


"Total time" isn't an officially defined term as far as I know. Most people seem to use it to mean "total flight time", i.e. the total of their PIC, SIC and flight training time (excluding simulator training).

In general, you can log and count whatever you want in your logbook provided that you log at least the items required in 61.51(a):

(a) Training time and aeronautical experience. Each person must document and record the following time in a manner acceptable to the Administrator:

(1) Training and aeronautical experience used to meet the requirements for a certificate, rating, or flight review of this part.

(2) The aeronautical experience required for meeting the recent flight experience requirements of this part.

So, the bottom line is that "total time" is whatever you want it to be, and if you want to log 'fun time' in aircraft that you aren't qualified to fly then go ahead; the time just won't count for anything as far as the FAA is concerned.

As for your two scenarios:

  1. You can't log any 'FAA time' because you're not certified to fly the aircraft as PIC or SIC, and you aren't receiving training. You might note it in your logbook for your own reasons but you can't count it towards anything for the FAA's purposes.
  2. You can't log 'FAA time' here either, for the reasons you mentioned. You're acting PIC for the entire flight, of course, but acting as PIC doesn't automatically let you log PIC unless other conditions are met. 61.51(e) lists all the ways you can log PIC time, e.g. sole manipulator, acting as PIC when more than one crewmember is required.
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  • $\begingroup$ Ad 2, being PIC and logging PIC are two different things. Logging PIC is really more logging PF. If I remember the other answers around this correctly, in this case you are PIC, but can't log it. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Feb 14 '17 at 8:00
  • $\begingroup$ I downvoted this answer because it strongly implies that logging PIC time is related to acting as PIC. It is not. $\endgroup$ – Terran Swett Oct 28 '18 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ I have now upvoted this answer; thanks for editing it to clarify :) $\endgroup$ – Terran Swett Nov 5 '18 at 3:57
  • $\begingroup$ @TannerSwett No problem, thanks for helping me to improve it! $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Nov 5 '18 at 4:25

There is a difference between total flight time and total time. The FARs do not define total time but they do define a term called pilot time.

61.1: Pilot time means that time in which a person— (i) Serves as a required pilot flight crewmember; (ii) Receives training from an authorized instructor in an aircraft, flight simulator, or flight training device; or (iii) Gives training as an authorized instructor in an aircraft, flight simulator, or flight training device.

Total flight time is defined as

1.1: Flight time means: (1) Pilot time that commences when an aircraft moves under its own power for the purpose of flight and ends when the aircraft comes to rest after landing; or (2) For a glider without self-launch capability, pilot time that commences when the glider is towed for the purpose of flight and ends when the glider comes to rest after landing.

61.51 deals with logging time. In your first example, the airplane is type certificated for a single pilot, you are not performing any operation requiring more than one pilot (i.e. safety pilot) so you cannot log PIC, SIC. I might log pilot time but not total flight time.

In your second example, while the non rated friend is flying you cannot log PIC or total flight time but may be able to log pilot time.

You only need to worry about total time when applying for an ATP certificate as that certificate calls for total time not total flight time.

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I flew cargo in a plane that required one pilot, but we always flew with two pilots. The FAA examiner that gave me my checkrides, including my ATP, told me to log all the time I was at the controls as PIC and all other time as "total time".

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  • $\begingroup$ This is good info, but would be better served as a comment. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Mortensen Apr 18 '19 at 0:49

Major bump but clarity was needed...

Per 61.1: Both Aeronautical Experience and Flight time are defined using "pilot time". Pilot time is time when a person either; 1)acts as a required crew member (per type certificate), 2)gives or receives training, or 3)is an SIC per 135.99(c). If it is not pilot-time then it is passenger-time.

After logging Passenger time as "total-time" you will look pretty stupid when you have to back-peddle your resume by saying you have experience but not aeronautical experience and total time that isn't flight-time or pilot-time

To say that "total-time" is not defined seem like an attempt to use the vagueness doctrine. The doctrine requires that something be so vague that a person "exercising common sense could not sufficiently understand and fulfill its prescription." It is clear to any reasonable person that "total-time" is not a sub category but rather a sum of sub categories. To add numbers or value to the total-time column without a sub column entry is just cooking the books.

The co-mingling of what is technically passenger-time with your actual pilot-time was addressed back in 1984 in Cassis v. Helms. In this case the appellant had enough valid hours for his ATP but he also had padded his log book with an additional 150 hours to "enhance his employment prospects". He tried to claim the false entries were irrelevant since he had enough valid hours. The Board however felt that...

"the false entries were material because if left intact, they could be used by the appellant to show compliance with other FAA requirements beyond those needed for the ATP certificate. Since the logbook in question is a permanent and cumulative record of the appellant's flight experience, it may be consulted when Cassis seeks to demonstrate compliance with other FAA flight experience requirements. The FAA, of course, is charged with promoting aviation safety. See 49 U.S.C. § 1421(a). The FAA cannot meet this responsibility unless pilot logbooks are free of knowing misrepresentations of fact". -- Cassis v. Helms, 737 F.2d 545, 547 (6th Cir. 1984)

The logging of 150 hrs worth of false entries (that he didn't even need) cost him his license for a year plus the attorney fees for a trial and an appeal..all in federal court. After the year do you suppose he had any luck finding a job?

Before you risk your career, remember the FAA has two catch all phrases (that the FAA gets to define at will) that will always trump your clever interpretations of the regulations... "careless and reckless" and "in a manner acceptable to the administrator".

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  • $\begingroup$ The the extent that a logbook used to show compliance is a federal document... 18 U.S. Code § 1001 concerning false statements and entries might be applied.. "falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact" $250,000 fine / 5 years. Fortunately the FAA rarely steps out of their internal regs though I believe they could. $\endgroup$ – Juan Falso Sep 4 at 14:38

The interpretation of "Total Time" I've always seen is the sum of all the other categories. That is, your "total time" should be the sum of your PIC/SIC/Instruction (not as PIC/SIC) time. That said, it's your logbook, you can log whatever you want as "total time" (e.g. if your airline co-pilot has the fish & you get called up to sit right seat you can log that as "total time" if you wish - just not as one of the categories that "counts" under the regs: PIC/SIC/Instruction Received etc.)

Note that your second example is a different situation:

In a plane I'm rated for, I pass the controls to a non-certificated passenger. I'm not a CFI. I cannot log PIC, SIC, or dual while my passenger is the sole manipulator of the controls, but I am acting as the PIC for this portion of the flight. Can I log this as total time?

You are acting as PIC in this situation. Who is manipulating the controls is irrelevant: As your passenger is not rated to act as PIC of airplane carrying passengers you must be filling that role. You would therefore log PIC time in this case (you cannot however log it as "dual given", nor can your passenger log it as "dual received", because you are not a CFI).
This is also true if your passenger holds a student pilot certificate, or a certificate for a different category/class of aircraft (e.g. if they have a rotorcraft certificate they still can't be PIC of an airplane - they are not rated for that category of aircraft).

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    $\begingroup$ Your second part is incorrect. In this case, he is indeed the PIC, but you can only log time as sole manipulator of the flight controls in an aircraft in which you are rated. Since the controls were handed off to someone else, even though they are the PIC, the time may not be logged as such. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Aug 31 '15 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ Lnafziger is correct with his comment. $\endgroup$ – wbeard52 Feb 14 '17 at 0:18
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, you are acting as pilot in command in that situation... but you can't log it as pilot in command. $61.51(e)(1)(i). $\endgroup$ – Ryan Mortensen Apr 18 '19 at 0:45

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