How to Choose the Best Pilot logbook App in 2020 (Opinion)
Every pilot should choose the best pilot logbook app to suit their specific needs. With more available than ever before, you have plenty of choices. Here we’ll share our insights to help you choose the best one for you.
I have used a range of electronic logbooks from excel spreadsheets to the dedicated logbook apps to log thousands of flights over the last 14 years. During that time, I have witnessed the evolution as mobile devices gained popularity and price models changed. I have also experienced the importance of harder to measure qualities like good customer service. The following advice is as impartial as possible and I hope it helps you find the right logbook for your needs.
Do I Need a Logbook App?
That’s an interesting question. Technically, no you don’t. A paper logbook is legally sufficient at the moment, however, it can be very useful today and could be especially important in the future. One of the many benefits is having robust reporting features that can easily breakdown your hours for job applications and reports to your aviation authority.
With the world becoming more digital and connected, our expectation is that digital flight logging is going to become more important as time goes on. More in this article Do I Need to Log my Flights in an App?
Why Choosing The Right Logbook App Is Important?
Not every pilot has the same requirements and the diversity of apps on the market means there are a lot you can choose from. These apps aren’t always inexpensive and you may have to live with one for a long time. Getting the right service and features at the start will make your life easier in the long run. Specific in-app features are fairly easy to assess, so we’ll focus on the other elements that’ll make your logbook experience much better.
Choosing a Digital Logbook
Years of research are behind the points listed below. These seem to be the largest sticking points for most customers and are some of the most discussed issues.
- Backup - Some form of backup is essential and ideally independent of the app or the company. Traditionally a paper logbook is a unique piece of paper. Many pilots will keep a photocopy or scan as a backup. In the digital age, data can become corrupted and devices break or get stolen. That’s why a robust backup system is a must. In our opinion, that backup should be independent of the logbook provider in case they cease to exist. If done correctly, an electronic logbook is definitely safer than paper.
- Data control - Your logbook contains your data. It’s important you always own it and can control it by being able to easily export your flights. Make sure it’s simple to do and can be sent to where you might want it later, for example, another logbook provider. There is nothing more frustrating than feeling like you are stuck with a service that is no longer right for you.
- Customer service - This point is really critical. Imagine you are prepping your logbook for a job interview in a couple of days and for some reason, there is a software bug. You reach out to the logbook company and you get no response for several weeks. That can put a lot of pressure on you. A way to check that a company is responsive to your needs is to email their customer service or send a social media inquiry before you subscribe and check their responsiveness to you.
- Recent reviews - Checking recent reviews applies to all apps. Within the App Store, the star rating can appear good based on historic ratings but more recent reviews may tell a clearer story of what you can expect today. It’s possible for app publishers to clear bad reviews when they upload a new app version. You can access these past reviews in the ratings and reviews section for each app listing. They’re always worth a read if the app developer has done this.
- Pricing - You may be living with this product for a long time, potentially a decade or even more. Price points vary wildly with logbook apps ranging from free to highly priced. Choose the price point that works for you and provides the service you need. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s quality and just because it’s inexpensive doesn’t mean it’s bad. The points above, 1 to 4, are way more important than price.
Once these points are met, make sure there is sufficient free trial to get to grips with your choice of app. The free trial doesn't need to be particularly long but does need to give you enough time to experience most of the features you'll be using. A caution with free trials. Most logbook apps offer a flight-hour based free trial from the moment you start logging. Importing historical flight data sometimes doesn't count towards your free trial hours but sometimes takes you over the trial limit. If this is the case you can work around this limitation by logging some flights, making sure you are happy with the free trial before importing your old data. Of course, that may mean you'll have to log some of your flights twice.
We hope this has been a useful article for you. If you want any help with logbook advice, choosing the right app or to talk to us about the AvionLog pilot logbook app, please feel to reach out to us. We’re always listening.