The Technical Counselor Visit: The Builder’s Log

By Lisa Turner, EAA Lifetime 509911

In the last article we talked about workshop setup and how it can keep a builder on track. Another tool is the all-important builder’s log. Using the two in tandem can make the difference between completing the project and giving up.

At a minimum the builder’s log is simply keeping track of items completed and including pictures as a record for the FAA inspector or DAR to determine if the builder really built the airplane. But the builder’s log can be so much more.

One of the problems that builders face is the unknown. When they launch out on an aircraft build, they don’t have the answers to many questions. These questions include:

  • Do I really have the skill to build his airplane?
  • Is my workshop adequate?
  • How long is this going to take?
  • How do I break the project into bite size pieces?
  • How do I manage my time?
  • How do I assemble a Pilot’s Operating Handbook?

A builder’s log, at the outset, can be set up to provide answers to these questions. Ideally a log will be the repository for a project plan, build records, hours and tasks, comments about what went well and what didn’t, manufacturer checklists, emails from other builders, electrical diagrams and engineering information, and, of course, detailed descriptions and photographs of the build. All of these items can form the basis for the ultimate Pilot’s Operating Handbook. Here’s how. You might want to copy this on a separate sheet and the builder can take it to work from.

Get a couple of large notebooks and label them “Builder’s Log.” You can develop sections as you go along.

The first thing to go into the log will be your project plan. If you don’t have a project plan yet, make a space for it.

Headings to consider will be:

  • Project Plan – Helps you stay on track
  • Tasks and Times – A must for the certification review
  • Photos Section – A must for the certification review. Include yourself in many of them.
  • Materials List & Invoices
  • Information from the Manufacturer
  • Mistakes and Corrections/Tips and Tricks Learned
  • Technical Counselor Visits
  • Aircraft Modifications/Changes
  • Miscellaneous

When the DAR or FAA inspector arrives at your project to give you an airworthiness certificate, they care about three things. Did you build the airplane or participate in a group building the airplane for education and recreation? Is the paperwork correct and in order? Does the aircraft match the paperwork and appear to be built with a reasonable level of safety awareness and workmanship?

Your log will tell the inspector a great deal about how you work and how much you care about detail. A good log will take some of the pressure off the physical inspection of the airplane. But adding the extra sections will contribute functionality that you will appreciate later, when you suddenly need the information on an erroneous drawing or a missing part, or need to send something back to the factory.

One question I get as a TC is, “Why should I record mistakes and re-dos?” Because they are a part of life, and describing what went wrong might help someone else in the future. If the manufacturer gets enough feedback on where builders got off track, they may be able to avert it in future kits, or at least warn future builders that a particular task is error prone.

You should also have a section for cool things you’ve discovered. Did you find a better way to do something?  Why not share it with the builder group and with the manufacturer? If it’s a fantastic innovation, be sure to write down the detail — it might lead to something like an invention.

Note: EAA provides a digital builder’s log application online. It’s easy to print out the tasks if you want to place them into your hardcopy log.

For more, see EAA Sport Aviation Airworthy, December 2019, “What Should Be in Your Builder’s Log?”

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