Numerous scenarios can make it difficult for a pilot to think whether they can log them for their flight time.
A rejected takeoff, tedious ground delay, or a long return to the gate can all amount to a sizable amount of time.
The pilot is still in command of the aircraft so it should seem to count as flight time yet there may be some deliberation as to whether you can log it.
Ensuring that your logbook remains accurate for your flight time can be a complex and difficult task. Whenever you endure a canceled or delayed takeoff and any other delays, the definition of flight time may be missed.
In this guide, we will look at the definition of flight time and the scenarios where you may wonder if you should count it.
What Is The Definition Of Flight Time?
One top priority for a pilot should be to maintain their logbook and keep it accurate.
There are few better indications of a reliable pilot than one who looks after their logbook which means knowing what the definition of flight time is.
In Title 14, Chapter 1 of the Code of Federal Regulations for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), flight time is defined firstly as the pilot time that begins ‘when the aircraft moves under its power for flight’.
That would suggest that a delayed takeoff should count as flight time as the intention is to fly and the aircraft is moving under its power.
The rest of that first part of the definition goes on to state that flight time ‘ends when the aircraft comes to rest after landing’ which should include any time taken to arrive at a stop after landing, even if it takes a while to arrive at the correct gate.
The second part of the definition refers to gliders but there is plenty to go from in that first part. Namely that there are so many situations that you could face before and after flying.
These can include a diversion, a rejected takeoff, and a lengthy return to the gate.
Engine Warm Up And Cool Down
If you are delayed because of fog, then your flight time does not start until the visibility improves enough for you to begin your taxi out of the runway.
This is largely because the engine is either still getting prepared to move under its power.
Alternatively, for cooling down the aircraft has stopped moving while the engine is cooling down and has come to rest after landing.
During that period, the pilot and crew are still necessitated to be on the aircraft as the engine is still running.
However, the cooldown period is considered to be after the landing, or post-landing, without the intent to continue flying so it should not count towards flight time.
A diversion can be truly frustrating and it may lead you to wonder what is considered flight time if you can proceed to your destination despite landing once already.
The flight crew will remain on the aircraft when the passengers are off and the engines are shut off or if the aircraft is parked on a somewhat remote section of an airport.
Once flight time starts, it continues for as long as the pilot is needed onboard the aircraft.
In the case of the diversion, the aircraft does not arrive at a stop or rest after landing while the crew is needed onboard.
Despite the aircraft landing as part of the diversion, it is yet to come to a rest as it has not arrived at its final destination.
The flight time would be expected to continue and accrue as the diversion forms only part of that journey.
Return To The Gate
When you are taxiing to the runway, there is the chance that a part of the aircraft can break and you would be required to return to the gate to get it fixed.
A similar request to return to the gate could occur if a dispatch decision requires more cargo to be loaded or additional passengers after you have left the gate.
You may wonder if the pause back at the gate counts as flight time.
As the pilot is required to remain on board, the delay does not stop the accrual of flight time as the ‘purpose of flight’ is continuing.
Flight time began when the aircraft initially taxied under its power from the gate and continues through the delay back to the gate.
The pilot is still required to stay on board and the definition of flight time states that it ends when the aircraft has come to a rest when it has landed at the destination airport.
Even though the aircraft has not taken off, the return to the gate still sees it moving under its power and still counts as flight time.
Imagine that the weather has turned and it has begun snowing when it is already very cold.
You would taxi to a de-icing pad and it can take around 20 minutes to apply de/anti-ice fluid (Type I and Type IV) to the aircraft while the engines are off.
The FAA did decide that the necessary de-icing procedures are deemed as ‘preparatory to flight’.
This would confirm that this time still counts as flight time as it would be undoubtedly necessary for the aircraft to fly.
All the time taken to de-ice the aircraft can be interpreted as flight time, including the time taken for the aircraft to taxi under its power to the de-icing pad from the gate.
The flight time carries on until the aircraft has come to rest at the next point of landing after the flight has finished.
When you are taxiing to the departure runway, something can break on your aircraft.
That would inevitably delay your takeoff, even if it only takes a few minutes to resolve until you are safe to resume flying and depart.
You may wonder if the time taken while parked on the ground should count as flight time.
Surprisingly, yes it does as long as the eventual flight is not suspended or terminated you can log each minute of delay as flight time.
This also counts for ground delays when you are waiting for takeoff clearance.
There are several scenarios where a pilot and their crew are still required onboard where the aircraft is not necessarily flying.
You may wonder if these scenarios count towards flight time and when you can log it.
It may be surprising to learn that a delayed takeoff can be logged as flight time, as long as the flight is not suspended or terminated.
Other procedures such as de-icing the plane in cold conditions can also count as flight time as these are measured deemed to be ‘preparatory to flight’.
Also, a return to the gate counts as flight time as the ‘purpose of flight’ is still occurring.
Similarly, as the pilot and crew are required to finish a flight after a diversion, the flight time can still be logged.
However, an engine warm-up and cooldown do not necessarily count towards flight time as the aircraft is not yet moving under its power during a warm-up, and cool-down is considered as a post-landing scenario.