LOG ENTRY - 25-OCT-2011                                        Matt Borland
  Flight: 21 - 25-OCT-2011 - 1.3 hr - First Solo
  Depart: KCOS ~0830  Arrive: KCOS ~0948

Today I finally flew my first solo!   As with everything though, it was not an
unmitigated success...two of the three landings were abysmal.

A snow storm was set to come in a little later in the day, but at 8 am it was
pretty calm and clear.  We went up to make sure I felt OK, and though I flew
all right I was a little off.  I missed a few radio calls and my landings were
a lot less smooth than last time.  All in all it seems there are just days
where you are 'on' and those where you are 'off,' and I am having a rough time
telling which it's going to be ahead of time.  

The patterns were also a little confusing this morning.  The northbound runways
(35L, 35R, and 31) were open, but after my first landing they switched to 
southbound runways, and then again back to northbound.  The winds were low, so 
I'm not exactly sure what the reasoning was behind that.  After about five 
landings my instructor asked if I was ready to do it all alone, and I said 
"sure."  He looked at me: "100% sure?"  "Sure," I said, "100% pretty sure."
I landed, took him to the aero club ramp, and dropped him off there.

While I taxied out to the runway, my instructor listened in on the radio to 
hear my interactions with the tower (he didn't transmit, only listened).  I 
lined up behind a Lear Jet and did an abbreviated engine runup.

I felt pretty good through all this...not a lot different than taking the car
out for the very first time.  The cockpit seemed a little empty and quiet,
otherwise it felt pretty good.  The takeoff and pattern were good, although
I must have been a little distracted because I went about 200 feet above my 
pattern.  My approach on the first touch-and-go was pretty good, but on the 
flare I ended up flat and landed too quickly and not straight-on...I had to 
struggle to get the plane straight.  That shook me quite a bit, but the only
thing to do is immediately shake it off and start again.

The second landing was a bit better although still pretty flat.  After I lifted
off again I called into the tower to let them know I wanted a full stop next 
time (the goal was to do two touches and one final stop).  For most takeoffs
and landings, the tower will place you on runway 13/31 because it runs right
along taxiway bravo and the flight line, so you don't have to traverse miles and
miles of taxiways and waste gas.  So they moved my final landing over to
runway 13.  Since it's at an angle to the other runways and to the grid of the
city, I have a rough time choosing points for my pattern.  So my pattern was 
sort of wide and long, but still no real problem.  I came in OK, but again hit
flat and a little early...this time causing me to skip back into the air and 
then...1...2...3...BAM!!!  Slammed hard and flat back onto to runway.  Thought 
the gear were just going to collapse right from under me.  But, all's well that 
ends well...

So, the first solo was complete.  It's been a bit of a journey for me.  Without
a doubt, for the hardest part has been all in my head.  I don't physically mind
the flights, and I never have found myself frightened by a situation (except
perhaps those bad landings just now).  It's rather the ability to clear your
mind somewhat of all the cruft and clutter that otherwise echoes about.  I 
learned that in my mental closet are a whole host of skeletons: self-loathing,
doubt, perfectionism, egoism, and many more.  All combining in weird ways when
you least expect them.  I could walk into a session feeling great, but after
just a few minor setbacks I'd be letting those monsters walk all over me.  I 
talked with my boss, who piloted F-16s and other fighters when he was in the
Air Force.  He said that the hardest thing for any pilot to do is to 
compartmentalize: to completely shut out any things that may distract you from
the task at hand.  I learned that one early; I came up with the mini-mantra that
I tell myself each time, which is to 'keep my demons on the ground.' 

So my first solo was not a complete success, which means it's not quite the 
relief I hoped it would be.  But I'll take any success I can!