Keep a ‘Lessons Learned’ Log

Track your mistakes to ensure you don't repeat them.

Piper Mirage

Piper Mirage

Most all of us keep detailed logbooks recording the numbers of hours we’ve flown as PIC in the various aircraft types we frequent. Another type of record you might consider keeping is a “lessons learned” log that includes not just the basics of how long you flew and where you went but also a detailed post-flight analysis of what you did right on a given flight and what you did wrong.

Let’s face it, no flight is perfect. Even pilots who’ve been flying for 50 years still can learn a thing or two while seated at the controls of an airplane. Making a written log of what you learned on a given flight can help you develop procedures to ensure operational errors don’t happen again. It might also remind you of some detail worth correcting that might have slipped your mind had you not sat down to think about the entire flight you just flew. You might even uncover a trend you hadn’t noticed.

I’ve been keeping a lessons learned log since I started flying a new airplane with some unfamiliar systems. Each log so far has been around 150 words long and includes every little detail (and some not so little details) I could think of where I could have done something different and better.

An example from my last log was the landing back at my home airport, which is also new to me. I was set up on a nicely stabilized approach with my airspeed nailed. At about 100 feet, the tower called to advise me there would be one departure on a crossing runway as I landed. The crossing runway was well down the runway I was landing on and so safety wasn’t compromised in any way. However, when I saw the crossing traffic, a King Air, my pilot mind automatically tried to identify which King Air model it was. As a result of flaring while looking at another pretty airplane, what should have been a greaser turned into a clunker.

In my lessons learned log I admonished myself with the following note: “Don’t let yourself be distracted on final by an aircraft taking off on a crossing runway — or anything else unimportant; led to a hard landing.”

Even if you think you’re a pretty darn good pilot and don’t make many mistakes, sitting down after a flight to think about everything that happened during a particular trip could jog your memory and remind you of something you might have forgotten. Reflecting on even the small details in this way gives you the best chance of ensuring you don’t repeat an error in the future.