Vol. 4 May 2006
Velocity's Quarterly Newsletter

Article Header Four

The Pitfalls of Electronic Documentation

Tom Keenan

Computers have revolutionized our society.  They've given us a new, simple way to do business, to entertain, to organize, to create.  Computers though, can be both a blessing and a curse. I recently had the opportunity to do a conditional inspection on a Velocity that had been touched by what, in a technologically driven world, has become all too common: electronic documentation.

One of the owners of the airplane in question had passed on and the aircraft was being sold.  In order to do this conditional sale inspection I had to travel about 3 hours away, which limited the extent to which I could tackle serious maintenance issues.  Luckily, in this particular case, the aircraft was in very good shape.  I stress: the aircraft was in good shape. The logs, however, were not - which made for a sore experience indeed. Allow me to explain.

The deceased Velocity owner had taken care of all maintenance logging electronically. Now don’t get me wrong, I applaud his candor in digitizing what has long been an archaic method of documention. The only problem was that there was only one copy of these records. And they were deleted at some point after the death of the owner. According to the plane’s co-owner, all airworthiness directives had been complied with, but since the only records had been deleted after the death of his partner, all the AD's had to be verified or redone.  In fact, there were two serious and time consuming AD's which cost the owner both time and money to reconcile.

As the computer age has pushed itself more and more into the common aviator’s life, more and more pilots have begun to use the organizational capabilities of the PC to log both flight and maintenance information. This can be a wonderful thing. At our fingertips we have the ability to sort our flight logs by type, by destination, by time, by date - by any imaginable combination of parameters. We can organize our maintenance logs to the same degree – and this can be extremely valuable to your mechanic and in the future possibility of selling your craft. However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that our logs have been historically kept on paper for a reason: it’s tactile, it’s portable, it’s not easily erasable, it’s a permanent record. My advice for everyone is this: if you’re using a computer to log valuable flight time or keep track of maintenance records be sure to make paper copies, and back up your electronic records. Don't find yourself in a comparable scenario sometime down the road.  You won't regret it.


Tom Keenan