Friday, December 25, 2020

Searching, Totals, and Insurance

One of my motivations for writing MyFlightbook was frustration 15 years ago filling out insurance reports, which seem to want to know how much time you have in purple airplanes on Thursday nights in months ending in "y".  These numbers were painfully difficult to extract from my paper logbook, but I knew that they were trivial for software.  MyFlightbook has obviously evolved a bit beyond that since then, but the need for these sorts of numbers remains.

Sadly, there's no standardization for what insurance companies, flying clubs/FBOs, or employers want to know, so sometimes the information you want can be found in several places, but the search tools are designed to make it easy to ultimately get what you want.

How Search and Totals Relate

By default, looking at "Totals" on MyFlightbook shows you the totals (and some subtotals) across all of your flights.  Pretty much anything that can be summed shows up here: flight times, counts of landings or approaches, and so forth.  So if you want to know how much PIC time and SIC time you have, just go to totals and you'll see it.

But sometimes you want to know how much PIC and SIC time you have in, say, Boeing 737s.  This means you want to do the usual totals but on only the subset of your flights that were in 737s.  If you do a search for flights where the model of aircraft is a 737, and then click on "Totals" on the screen where you see your results from the search, the resulting totals reflect only 737 time, so you can read the PIC and SIC totals right off of this screen.  (Note: here I'm discussing the web interface; on the iOS or Android apps, the order is reversed: you go to the totals screen and do the search from there; when you return to totals, the totals are update to reflect only matching flights).

In other words, Search acts as a filter on your flights, and totals are then computed on only those flights that survive the filter.  As a result, you don't want to select the totals you're looking for in your search criteria.

Notice that in the example above, I did not suggest searching for flights with PIC time and/or flights with SIC time, even though those are the times for which you are "searching".  That could yield incorrect results.  Why?  Because you want PIC/SIC totals, but searching for PIC/SIC time filters on PIC/SIC time.  

So, for example, consider the following 3 flights:




If you search for flights with PIC and SIC time, none of these flights will match, and your total will erroneously be 0.  The moral of the story here is to use search to filter flights, not to specify the totals you want to see.

Getting Totals for Insurance/FBOs/Clubs/Employers

For the most part, you can simply read the results in the "Totals" screen for most of the values that you need: your total time, your PIC time, time in category/class, and so forth.

But often the insurance company wants to know things sliced a bit differently, such as how many hours you have this year vs. last year, how many hours you have in a particular model of aircraft, how much night PIC/SIC you have, and so forth.

You can generally do a search to find these results - e.g., searching by date range, or searching based on model.  When you do the search, the resulting totals will include the values you want. 

But often you can get this information from readily available reports, which can generally be found under the "Training" tab.

One of the most useful reports here is the "Rollup by Model".  This is analogous to the "" format, a sample of which is shown below:

The advantage of this report is that it breaks totals down by model of aircraft, letting you directly read your total for each model.  It also includes a breakdown by time, showing you your total for all dates, as well as trailing 12-month and 24-month periods.

In a similar vein, the "Rollup by Time" report shows you your basic totals striped by time periods, so that you can easily read out year-to-date and previous-year totals.

Of course, one of the key set of values people need when applying for new ratings is the 8710 / IACRA report.  This one is worth diving into a bit because of how it computes "combination" values like night-PIC/night SIC.

Let's again consider the sample flights above:




If we were to simply sum the totals here, we would get the following, which is a correct summary of your total times:

  • Night: 1.7
  • SIC: 2.5
  • PIC: 1.8
  • Total: 4.3

But you cannot easily glean from this how to apportion your night-PIC and night-SIC.  What the 8710 / IACRA report does in this situation is to add MIN(Night, PIC) and MIN(Night, SIC) for each flight to the night-PIC and night-SIC totals.  So in this example, it would accrue 0.5 hours of night-SIC and 1.2 hours of night-PIC, which would be the correct values here.

Alternatively, you could search on flights with PIC time and then read the "Night" total to get night-PIC value, and then do the same SIC time, but I generally would advise against that both because it's easier to just read the values out of the 8710 report, but also because it won't always yield the results you intend.  

For example, imagine that you were a safety pilot for someone on a one-hour night flight, and you log half an hour of PIC time and half an hour of SIC time for the flight.  In that case, this flight properly is 30 minutes each of night-PIC time and night-SIC time.  But if you simply search for flights with PIC time, this will survive the filter and thus the "Night" total will reflect the total night on the flight, which is a full hour.  Doing that search and reading the "Night" total would thus be overstating your night-PIC time by half an hour.

Note that the 8710 form (and the other reports) can also be filtered using the same search criteria as the main totals page, so if you want to know, say, your night-PIC time in a particular model of aircraft, you can search on that model and the resulting 8710 will show your your night-PIC in that aircraft.

Other common totals

Often you need other totals, such as time flying glass avionics.  This is not generally broken out for you in any of the built-in reports on MyFlightbook, but it's easy to get.  In this example, just do a search for the criteria in question (in this case, flight aircraft is glass) and the resulting totals will reflect your total time, PIC time, etc. in glass aircraft.

What gets a little trickier is if you want to know things like your time NOT in glass avionics-equipped aircraft.  While MyFlightbook makes it easy to find flights/totals that meet a criteria, it's a little harder to find flights/totals that don't meet a given criteria.   So a little math is in order: first you find the totals for all of your flights.  Then, find your totals for flights that meet the opposite criteria of what you want (in this example, glass cockpits).  You can then simply subtract one from the other.

Other searching tips

MyFlightbook offers pretty sophisticated tools for finding exactly the subset of flights you want.  Here are some tips/tricks for effective searching:

All searching is case insensitive and partial word searches.
  • By default, a flight must match ALL of the criteria that you specify in order to be included in the result set.  The more criteria you specify, the fewer flights will match.  But some sections of search criteria (namely flight characteristics and presence of flight properties) allow for you to specify "ANY" or "NONE" criteria.  "ANY" in this case means that any of the criteria will satisfy that section.  (If there are additional criteria specified outside of that section, then that criteria must also be met).  "NONE" works in the same way: if the specified criteria is met with NONE specified, then the flight is rejected.
  • If you search for "Local" flights, it will find any flight that has exactly one airport in the route, or that has the same airport twice.  E.g., "KSFO" or "KSFO-KSFO" are both considered local flights.  "Non-local" flights will return anything that leaves the home field.  I.e., this is basic cross-country by the 61.1 definition.
  • When searching in the "Flight visited any of these airports" field, you can use "!" as a prefix or suffix. !ABC matches flights that depart from ABC (i.e., ABC is the first airport in the route of flight), and ABC! matches flights that arrive at ABC (i.e., ABC is the last airport in the route of flight).
  • In the "Model Contains" field, you can type a partial string to match on the full name of a model (including manufacturer).  For example, if you type "Cessna" then you'll match flights in any Cessna.
  • In the "Model Contains" field, if you search for "icao:xxx", then it will only find flights in aircraft that have an exact match to xxx in the ICAO designation for the model.  E.g., "icao:b772" will match flights in a Boeing 777-200, but not in a Boeing 777-300 (which has an ICAO code of B773).
  • There is also a field where you can search for any text within the flight (route, comments, properties, etc.). This roughly follows Google conventions:
    • ILS VOR = must contain "ILS" and must contain "VOR" (but not necessarily in that order, separated by anything)
    • "VOR DME" = must contains "VOR DME" (inclusive of spaces)
    • ILS OR VOR = contains ILS OR contains VOR
    • -ILS = must NOT contain ILS
    • -"VOR DME" = must NOT contain "VOR DME"
    • -"VOR-DME" must NOT contain "VOR-DME" (i.e., the hyphen inside the quoted text is preserved, not negation)
    • -VOR -ILS = contains neither VOR nor ILS ("NOT VOR AND NOT ILS")
    • -VOR OR ILS = doesn't contain VOR OR does contain ILS.
  • You can also specify trailing dates in the free-text field. If you type "Trailing:" followed by a number followed by one of D, W, M, or CM, then this will override any other date setting and set the date to the specified number of Days (D), Weeks (W), Months (M), or Calendar Months (CM) prior to today. For example:
    • "Trailing:90d" - restricts to the 90 days leading up to today
    • "Trailing:36CM" - restricts to the 36 calendar months prior to today.  (E.g., if today is Nov 8 2020, then this will find flights on or after Nov 1 2017)


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