Pilot's tip of the week

Logging Safety Pilot Time


Subscriber question:

"Can I log PIC for my friend doing practice instrument approaches?" — Jackie Q.


“Logging time as a safety pilot is a tried-and-true way of two pilots building pilot-in-command, or PIC time on one flight. To do it legitimately, however, you two must agree beforehand that the safety pilot will be acting PIC for the flight.

The relevant FAR is 61.51, and the relevant sections are (e) (i) and (e) (iii). Paragraph (e)(i) says you may log PIC when you’re the sole manipulator of the aircraft controls and you’re rated for that aircraft. Paragraph (e)(iii) says you may log PIC when you’re acting as PIC of an aircraft under a regulation where more than one pilot is required. FAR 91.109 (c)(1) says that during simulated instrument conditions, a control seat must be occupied by a pilot rated for the aircraft. Put them together and the sole manipulator can log PIC time, and the safety pilot acting as PIC can also log PIC time.

The essential thing to understand is that acting as PIC is different from logging PIC time. Only one pilot can act as PIC, and that pilot is ultimately responsible for the flight. But that pilot doesn’t need to be the one manipulating the controls.

There are a few caveats to this system. A safety pilot must have at least a private pilot certificate, so a sport or recreational pilot can’t act as a safety pilot at all, let alone log PIC time for it.

To act as PIC, the safety pilot must have the recent flight experience per FAR 61.57, as appropriate for the aircraft and conditions of flight, such as night currency. They must also have a current medical or qualify for BasicMed. Essentially, they have to be legal enough to operate the aircraft themselves with a passenger. The pilot under the hood isn’t a “required crew member” when the safety pilot is acting as PIC, so they are like a passenger from a regs point of view.

The safety pilot can only log PIC time when the other pilot is under the hood. Presumably, that won’t be true for takeoff and landing at the very least.

It doesn’t apply to your question, but there’s an oddity here you should know. If the safety pilot isn’t acting as PIC, then the safety pilot is a required crewmember during simulated instrument flight. FAR 61.3 (c) says that a required crewmember must have a valid medical certificate–BasicMed is not enough. So if your safety pilot flys under BasicMed, he or she must be in the role of acting PIC – and then you can both log PIC time.”

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