Anyone who owns a small aircraft is also responsible for the technical records for that aircraft. Technical records include the Journey log, Maintenance technical logs and the Weight and Balance report. The technical records essentially represent the ongoing story of aircraft activity. These records may also include any additional documents related to the performance of any operational restrictions, required maintenance or any repair activities. The primary purpose of these technical records is to record flight and/or maintenance events and to re-visit these entries to ensure that the aircraft remains compliant with its approved maintenance schedule (or Standard 625, Appendix B + C as a minimum). All aircraft are subject to some form of maintenance schedule which dictates the scheduled maintenance routine.
The journey log is customarily used to record aircraft flights and the technical logs are used to record maintenance activities. The Weight and Balance report must be amended to the latest Empty Weight and C of G whenever equipment has been added to or removed from the aircraft. These amendments should be retained in chronological order and each change certified with a maintenance release. Mandatory airworthiness documents such as the C of A and C of R are not required to be kept with the technical records but are most often retained with the journey log since all of these are required to be on board the aircraft during flight (with few exceptions for journey logs in commercial operations).
The regulatory requirement to keep aircraft technical records is covered in CAR 605.92(1)(a) for the journey log, (b) for the technical logs and (c) for the current weight and balance report. CAR 605.93(1) goes on to describe the minimum information to be entered into these legal records, stating that entries must be accurate, legible and be scribed in a permanent manner, they must also include the name and signature of the person making the entry and the date of the entry. Further provisions in 605.93 pertain to the management of (optional) electronic records, the need to protect technical records from loss or damage, that technical volumes must continue with an unbroken chronology, corrected entries must remain legible through a single line crossing out the entry with an explanation for the correction and that corrections to electronic entries must be done in such a way that the corrected data can still be referenced. These requirements represent the basis for maintaining technical records for light aircraft.
Standard 625.93 offers more insights for record keeping such as the standard use of air-time for maintenance tracking purposes as opposed to flight-time. For the purposes of airworthiness, the service life of the aircraft is tracked as either calendar time and/or operating time. It is also the owner’s responsibility to transfer pertinent journey log information over to the technical logs within 30 days. It is actually quite common throughout the industry for owners of privately registered aircraft to leave their technical logs with the AMO performing the regular maintenance so that AME’s can conveniently make reference to various times and dates as necessary. This type of arrangement also assumes that the owner’s technical logs will continue to be kept up-to-date while in the care of the maintainer.
The aircraft journey log is used to record daily flight information along with any pertinent scheduled and unscheduled work. This log basically tells the story of the aircraft with regards to each flight, each scheduled inspection (or task) and any defects noted during service. In commercial operations, the journey log represents the primary means of technical dispatch, which means that this record is used as the main reference tool to determine the status of the aircraft and any given time. If there are no outstanding items affecting the airworthiness of the aircraft then you can assume that the aircraft is available for dispatch. Discovery of an outstanding defect or past-due maintenance item would be reason to keep the aircraft grounded until these items are addressed.
Canadian Aviation Regulations 605.94 to 605.97 continue to describe more specific information on the management of journey logs. Reference to CAR 605, Schedule I even provides a list of 11 items pertaining to specific types of journey log entries and who is responsible for each of these entries. Some of the Schedule I items include changes to the Flight Authority, Abnormal Occurrences, Test Flights and recording of defects – to name a few. Flight entries are made by the Pilot-in-Command (PIC) and the journey log is typically kept on-board the aircraft (with few exceptions). With regards to privately owned/operated aircraft, it is imperative that the operator (pilot) is familiar with these many examples of journey log entries and reasons for the corresponding responsibilities.
The aircraft technical logs are the most familiar reference used to describe the maintenance records for the aircraft. There are 3 basic technical logs pertaining to each of the 3 major components of the aircraft: The airframe, engine and propeller. In the case of multi-engine aircraft, a separate engine and propeller log is used to track each component (such as for left engine and right engine). In Canada we have established a color coded system to easily identify these component log books (The airframe log is blue, engine is yellow and propeller is red). The regulations require a propeller log for variable-pitch propellers only but most operators continue to use this same log for fixed-pitch models as well just to maintain the simplicity of record keeping. There is actually one other log that traditionally belongs in this set although it is not required by the regulations. The green Service Information and Modifications log is normally used to record the chronological history of Airworthiness Directives, Service Bulletins, and any Modifications as applied to the airframe for quick reference by those assigned to verify completion dates of these tasks. These types of tasks would have previously been certified in the airframe log at the time of completion. The engine and propeller logs each have their own Special Inspection section at the back for the same type of information as described for the airframe. The green log is used to merely record these events in an organized, easy-to-follow manner and therefore continues to be used for this purpose. This log also contains a section near the front to also record serialized engine/prop removal and installations.
Since each of these technical records/logs are related to a specific component, they must follow that component wherever it goes. The technical record for the airframe would be transferred to the new owner when the aircraft has been sold as per the Certificate of Registration. Components such as the engine and propeller are sometimes exchanged at overhaul and the technical record would follow those items accordingly. Even when the same engine or prop is to be re-installed on the original aircraft after work by an overhaul shop, the log book must accompany the component through this process so that the work can be recorded and certified at each stage of work being completed. This would also be true of certain accessories (sub-components) that have their own technical record whenever necessary. Reference to CAR 605, Schedule II provides a list of 5 items pertaining to specific types of technical log entries and who is responsible for each of these entries. Some of the Schedule II items include the recording of Airworthiness Directives, Abnormal occurrences and the performance of maintenance. Technical records are historical records and are therefore kept with their corresponding components until that component has been de-registered or permanently removed from service.
The completion of maintenance is usually detailed in the corresponding log entry and subsequent certification for that work. Additional maintenance documents such as tags, worksheets, repair certificates and major repair or modification forms also become part of the technical records and may be attached to the actual log book or simply retained in a separate file for that aircraft. These are all considered to be pertinent technical records for the aircraft (or component). Depending on the record keeping procedures utilized by the maintenance provider, additional documentation may also be referenced through company work orders or work packages retained on file with that company. Work order references are often included in maintenance entries for this purpose.
Technical records may be saved in various formats such as logbooks referencing the history of an aircraft that was previously registered in a different country. Regardless of the format used, the technical records must be able to provide the researcher with a clear unbroken technical history for the aircraft.
Maintaining good technical records is key to an efficient maintenance program in the long run. Detailed records save valuable time when searching through the details of previous work. This can be especially true when selling the aircraft as the records not only provide a sufficient history of the work performed but also represent the aircraft well when all of the paperwork is neat and organized.
Aircraft owners can use the technical records to better manage the maintenance tracking in consultation with their maintenance provider. While it is good for the owner to become more involved in the technical requirements of the aircraft, some simply prefer to trust the maintainer in the handling of such items according to their best judgement for that aircraft. In either situation, remember that the responsibility for maintaining the airworthiness of the aircraft always rests with the owner. The maintainer is only responsible for the performance of their own work that was requested by the owner. So keep in mind, that in most cases, the maintenance provider has traditionally been helping the owner to cover the necessary details beyond the Annual inspection as they are not responsible for tracking the necessary tasks but only for the performance of those tasks.
If you have never thought too much about your technical records before, perhaps you can now better relate through this introduction of how they can work to your advantage when maintained properly.