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Logging IFR/Night time while SIC

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Wastin' time...
Nov 26, 2001
Does anyone know how to properly log night and IFR (actual IMC) time while SIC and the Capt is pilot flying? As usual, the FAR's are clear as mud:

61.51(g)(1) A person may log instrument time only for that flight time when the person operates the aircraft solely by reference to instruments under actual or simulated instrument flight conditions.

61.55(a) ...no person may serve as SIC of an aircraft type certificated for more than one required pilot flight crewmember or in operations requiring a SIC unless that person holds:
(1)... (2) An instrument rating that applies to the aircraft being flown if the flight is under IFR.

And it says nothing about night. I have been logging all night time, but only the instrument time when I am at the controls.

I agree with Jim, and will go one further. Night and IMC are conditions of flight, and you are REQUIRED to log the time as such. The sic is operating the flight, just as much as the pic, no matter who is the flying pilot. Actually, most of the time the autopilot is flying, so who logs that? Both pilots, of course. Nothing else would make any sense. Good luck to you.
There are many different viewpoints on this issue, and the FAA even seems to have conflicting views when it comes to logging instrument time. The previous posts make valid points, but for further thought on the issue, here is the flipside based upon an answer to this same question that is addressed by the FAA's Pilot Examiner Standardization Team. The excerpt below is from a Part 61 Frequently Asked Questions document:

QUESTION: Regarding §61.51's definition of "operating an aircraft" an aircraft certified for two pilots is being operated under part 121. The PIC is "flying" the aircraft. The SIC is the non-flying pilot. Can the SIC log actual instrument flight time for those periods of actual IMC conditions when the PIC is flying the aircraft? Is the SIC considered to be "operating" the aircraft at this moment to justify logging this instrument time.

ANSWER: Ref. §61.51(f) and (g); The SIC is permitted to log the time as SIC time, as per §61.51(f). However, he is not permitted to log the time as instrument time, because as per §61.51(g), the person can only log instrument time “. . . for that flight time when the person operates the aircraft solely by reference to instruments under actual or simulated instrument flight conditions . . .” {Emphasis added “operates the aircraft”]. In your scenario, you stated the SIC was the non-flying pilot. So, the SIC crewmember was not operating the aircraft.

And even though you didn’t ask, the logged time has limited value. It cannot be used for the recency of experience under §61.57(c) because “ . . . operates the aircraft . . .” (otherwise meaning hands﷓on, flying pilot, etc.) is required.

Nor can this SIC time be used for meeting the ATP instrument aeronautical experience requirements of §61.159(a)(3) [i.e., “75 hours of instrument flight time, in actual or simulated instrument conditions, subject to . . . .”]

QUESTION: I recently upgraded to captain and have a question regarding the logging of flight time. My question is: As the PIC, when I’m not the flying pilot, should I be logging night and/or instrument flight time? Obviously the approaches can't be logged, but I'm wondering if the actual instrument time can be logged. Same goes for the night time.

ANSWER: Ref. §61.51(e)(2) and §61.57; If you’re a holder of an ATP certificate, and provided you’re “. . . acting as pilot-in-command of an operation requiring an airline transport pilot certificate” then yes you may log actual instrument time and night time while acting as pilot-in-command. But don’t read into that answer, that you can count the time toward meeting the recent flight experience of §61.57. Because you can’t. Those requirements are “hands-on-the-controls” requirements.

Personally, as SIC, I avoid logging instrument time unless I am the flying pilot.
RJFlyer - the way you’ve been logging time is correct. StormChaser beat me to the post – his quotes come from the most recent version of the FAA’s FAQs for Part 61, and while it differs from Jim’s, it is a more valid answer.

First of all, you’re not “REQUIRED” to log anything – to paraphrase §61.51(a), you’re only required to document and record time to demonstrate that you meet the requirements for a certificate/rating and/or recency of flight. Anything else you log is entirely up to you. I know several senior pilots who do not actually log any flights at all, relying on company records to demonstrate their currency; I’ve flown with one who flies and logs exactly one landing per month (great for the FO!), and another who only logs his three in one day every other month; one CA hadn’t logged a flight in 3½ years, though they all had their monthly company printouts. Whether you log a flight is entirely up to you, though as a regional SIC you probably want to get all the time into your logbook that you possibly can.

That said, what goes into your logbook must be accurate. There are people that will tell you that your logbook is your own record and you can do what you want with it – but in actuality it is a legal record of your flight time that you will present to the FAA for check rides, to the airlines for job interviews, and (hopefully never) the NTSB if you make a mistake, so what goes into it must be correct to the best of your knowledge – you can’t have your own personal definition of night time or IMC or PIC.

I use the same source for Legal Interpretations that Doc (and I think also TIS) uses. Unfortunately, the company that supplies that information is no longer in business as of the spring, so the legal opinions that we all refer to may no longer be current. In any case, the most recent of these opinions was from 1997, before the most recent Parts 61/141 rewrite, and may not be relevant for that reason anyway.

On the other hand, the FAA FAQs are recent – the Regulatory Support Branch people that write the rules update them every few weeks. While they also have a disclaimer that the Office of Chief Counsel does not review all their answers, most of the newer ones are in fact reviewed and many have been revised because of this process; some even include the supporting legal opinions. This is in contrast to the last published Legal Interpretations, which are now four years old.

Anyway, here’s my answer – like you and StormChaser, I log my night time as a condition of flight whenever I am SIC, but I only log instrument time when I am sole manipulator – you cannot log instrument time otherwise. As an aside, on my computerized log, I do track SIC instrument separately because some airlines used to consider it – Continental, for example.

Here’s my train of thought, and also why Doc is wrong:

§61.51 is the relevant FAR for the logging of flight time; §61.51(a) requires you to log flight time to show that you meet the requirements for certificates and/or recency; there shouldn’t be any problems with that.

§61.51(b) tells you what you must include in logging a flight; paragraph §61.51(b)(3) is important:

(3) Conditions of flight –

(i) Day or night.
(ii) Actual instrument.
(iii) Simulated instrument conditions…

Note that “Actual instrument” is a condition of flight and ought to be logged, as is “night”. So far, so good.

Now skip (c), (d), (e) and (f) – there shouldn’t be any problems there – and get to §61.51(g), and specifically §61.51(g)(1):

(g) Logging instrument flight time.

(1) A person may log instrument time only for that flight time when the person operates the aircraft solely by reference to instruments under actual or simulated instrument flight conditions.

(Paragraphs (2), (3) and (4) aren’t relevant to this discussion)

This is where we get hung up – while “actual instrument” is a condition of flight from §61.51(c)(3), §61.51(g)(1) gives a specific requirement for when this particular condition of flight actually applies.

So, is the SIC operating the aircraft if he’s not flying it? Because if he is, and the aircraft is in IMC, then the SIC should be able to log that. Doc thinks the SIC is operating the aircraft, and it turns out he’s right – sort of. To save space, I won’t reprint the FAA legal opinion (it’s linked on his site), but the FAA says that in effect, if an aircraft is complex enough to require an SIC, then by definition on some level the SIC must be operating the aircraft as well as the PIC, even if he’s not actually the pilot manipulating the controls – the same applies to the F/E. So at this point DOC has his answer – the SIC is operating the aircraft - and so if the aircraft is in IMC, then the SIC can log instrument time whether or not he’s the flying pilot.

Unfortunately, that’s as far as Doc has gone. The FAA has gone further, however. They have answered this specific question, as cited by StormChaser – as far as §61.51(g)(1) goes, “operates the aircraft” means more than just being a required crewmember – as far as the FAA is concerned, it means a pilot must actually be the flying pilot

So which is the right answer? StormChaser's - no question. We appear to have two FAA opinions that disagree with each other, but really we don’t. StormChaser cites a specific FAA answer to exactly the question asked; Doc does not. That’s the answer, and I don’t see any room for creative interpretation.

The problem with Doc’s legal citation is that it’s not the relevant to this question. He has taken a valid FAA answer to an entirely different question and tried to apply out it of context it to this one; sometimes that works, but this time it doesn’t. The opinion that Doc cited had to do with the liability of a ground marshaller in a ground collision; in that opinion the FAA later stated that historically the SIC “…is deemed to be operating the aircraft, whether or not the SIC is actually manipulating the controls.”

Good enough, but it’s an “apples and oranges” thing – in the legal opinion Doc cites, the FAA is using the term “operates” in a very general sense discussing liability and who gets violated; while in the FAQs cited by StormChaser, the FAA uses “operates” in a very specific sense as it relates only to logging instrument flight time (§61.51(g)(1)) and recency of flight experience (§61.57(c)(1)). In their answers, the FAA consistently applies phrases like “hands-on”, “flying pilot,” and, “hands-on-the-controls,” when discussing instrument flying – their intent is clear. On his site, Doc says he asked the FAA for an interpretation, and the answer may change, but for now it looks like the FAA’s point-of-view on this issue is set. Given a choice between Doc's interpretation and the FAA’s explicit answer, I’m going with the Feds.

StormChaser is right.

They’re already linked on this site, but here are the links to DOC’s Forum and the FAA FAQs again:

FAA Part 61 FAQ

Doc's FAR Forum

Hope this helps. Now I have to go fix my logbook…
Last edited:

It looks like Jim will stand by his answer no matter what. Good for him.

I’m gonna stand by my answer and hopefully let this thread die with just a few last comments since you may be willing to consider them:

Jim is right. The FAA FAQs are not legally binding. And actually neither is his POI, nor are the FAA legal opinions, either. From that web site, (my emphasis added):

QUESTION 1: What is the status of the information in the part 61/141 Q/A? Is it regulatory, an order, AFS policy, FAA HQ policy.

ANSWER 1: The authority of the Part 61/141 Q&A website is strictly Flight Standards policy on parts 61 and 141 for standardization purposes. As we all know, only an administrative law judge can establish a legal precedent to make a rule legally binding. Even the FAA Chief Counsel offices at FAA HQ and at the regional offices only issue legal opinions. However, FAA Chief Counsel office legal opinions certainly carries more "weight/authority" than these Q&As on this website have. But only an administrative law judge can issue a legal ruling that establishes a legal precedent that makes the rule legally binding. And then there have been those times where the NTSB may overrule one of their administrative law judge's legal ruling.

That pretty much takes care of the overused phrase “LEGALLY BINDING.”

And neither Jim nor I have access to the actual legal opinions. What we have are reprints from a commercial source of some legal opinions in question and answer form – same as Doc. The real ones take up several volumes.

I’m certainly not a lawyer, and this thread has gotten way to “lawyerish” for me – but that’s the way the FAR questions are, unfortunately. But I was “stashed” in flight school working for the Navy JAG office on base and again just before I went on terminal leave, and for better or worse I come from a family of them - so I do have some background and I do understand the legal concept Jim is trying to use – the word he’s looking for is “precedent”. The problem is, he also needs another legal term, which is “relevance”. Just because an FAA legal office makes a determination in one case doesn’t mean it automatically is applicable to other situations, and that’s where we disagree. Just as “PIC” can have many different applications and meanings, so can “operates” depending on context.

So for RJFlyer, I’m going to stick with StormChaser and my last three POIs – and say that you have to be the pilot flying in order to log instrument time. I’m going to back that up with the FAA FAQ, which are recent, and the lack of any specific legal opinion (out of the few that are publicly available) to the contrary (that’s the “relevance” argument); in fact, the absence of a legal opinion overriding the FAQ answers to this question may tell you all you need to know.

And I guess Jim will go with his legal opinion from his former POI and from Doc’s web site, even though Doc himself is apparently petitioning the FAA for a better answer.

You’re probably more confused now than before, right?

Happy Flying!
Thanks for all the great posts - still clear as mud, leave it to the govt to make it easy on us.

What I think I'll do is create 2 'actual instrument' columns in my logbook, one for 'condition of flight' and one for when I'm 'sole manipulator.' Then there will be no question.

Thanks again!
Instrument time may, and should be, logged regardless of acting as PIC or SIC, and regardless of weather the individua in question is sole manipulator of the controls. Instrument time is a condition of flight, and logging it is not dependent upon manipulation of the controls.

With respect to the subject of "operation," FAR 1.1 states defines Operate as "with respect to aircraft, means use, cause to use, or authorize to use aircraft for the purpose (except as provided in 91.13 of this chapter) of air navigation including the piloting of aircraft, with or without the right of legal control (as owner, lessee, or otherwise)."

In no wise does this definition separate the duties of PIC or SIC. In an aircraft requiring more than one pilot, both required pilots are engaged by legal requirement in the piloting of the aircraft. It cannot fly with one pilot. In such a case, both pilots are by definition operating the aircraft, and are both eligible to log instrument time as defined under FAR 61.51(g).

No consideration is given to manipulation of the controls for the purposes of logging flight time in instrument conditions.

No flight, or flight time must be logged, save for meeting recency of experience requirements, or those requirements for any certificate, rating, or operating privilege.

In the case of meeting recency of experience requirements under FAR 61.57, the appropriate landings and approaches must be completed by the individual who logs them for the sake of currency. This means that if the SIC makes the approach, the SIC logs the approach, but the PIC does not. Likewise, if the PIC makes the approach, the SIC does not log the approach. If the approach is conducted in instrument conditions, however, both pilots may log the time as instrument conditions, regardless of who manipulated the controls during the approach.

Some employers wish to divide instrument time logged as PIC from that logged as SIC, and that is a paperwork issue for a private employer. This has no bearing on the legal logging of flight time under the FAR, and should not be considered.

It is legal and proper to log instrument time for all time spent operating the aircraft in actual or simulated instrument conditions, without respect to the actual manipulation of the controls. It is not legal, nor proper, to log an approach, unless the person logging the approach also performs the approach.

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