LOG ENTRY - 30-NOV-2011                                        Matt Borland
  Flight: 28 - 30-NOV-2011 - 1.7 hr - First Cross-Country
  Depart: KCOS ~0850 -> KLIC -> Arrive: KCOS ~1005

It's amazing what a little injection of confidence will do for you.  Today I
flew my first 'cross-country' flight and it was amazing!  Everything seemed
very natural and fun.  Since my solo I have learned how to land the plane
more gently and evenly.  Now that I feel more comfortable with my landings,
everything else seems to have become easier.

A 'cross-country' flight, for purposes of training, is a flight that involves
traveling beyond the local area of the training airport and touching or
landing at another airport--in this case, the little municipal airport in 
Limon, about 60 miles northeast of the Springs.

A cross-country trip involves a good amount of planning.  Prior to the trip, I
gathered the necessary sectional charts and a navigation log and plotted out 
the route I'd take (in this case, a straight line).  I then picked out some 
visual waypoints every few miles and broke the trip out to Limon into legs.
For each leg I determined the distance to travel and recorded that in the
nav log.

I also looked up the optimal cruising speed and associated information (fuel 
flow, RPM, etc.) and recorded that in the nav log for use on the day of the

When I showed up for the flight, I arrived about an hour early and checked the
general weather and NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen) to see if there were any obvious
problems affecting the flight.  There was a front coming in a bit later in the
day, and there were some moderate winds aloft, but in general it looked like
a great day to fly.  

I then looked at wind/temperature information from Denver and Pueblo, where
weather balloons report the wind speeds and temperatures at various altitudes.
I would be flying to Limon at an altitude of 9500 feet above sea level, because 
when flying in an Easterly direction you fly at odd thousands plus 500 feet, 
whereas flying Westbound (as on the way back) you fly at even thousands plus
500 feet.  7500 feet would be too low to the ground (only about one to two
thousand feet above the ground...too close to get a good view), and 11500 feet
would be pretty high and require a lot of climbing.

With the wind information, I then went back to the nav log and interpolated
(made an approximation based on known values) the winds and temps at the
waypoints.  Then, based on those winds, I used the flight computer (which is a
circular slide rule) to determine the effect of wind on the plane so I could
calculate how to compensate for the winds by turning a little left or right.
On top of that, you then account for the magnetic variation from true North
so you can use your magnetic compass (no GPS here), and finally have to modify
the final figure with an adjustment for the magentic deviation of the compass
due to the effect of magnetic effects within the aircraft (engine, electrical
system, etc.) which is predetermined and written on a placard in the cockpit.

You do that for each leg of the cross-country.  (This is why we have GPS.)

Additionally, for each leg you approximate the groundspeed and then the time
that each leg should take, and finally based off of the optimal fuel flow, the
amount of gas used by each leg.  Combining all this information gives you the 
total time for the flight and the total fuel consumed.

This took about 20 minutes or so.  After that, I called into the Colorado Flight
Service Station and filed my flight plan.  Filing a flight plan notifies the
FAA about your plan for your flight and is used for search-and-rescue operations
in case you don't show up at your destination within 30 minutes.

Due to the cold weather, the plane was in the hangar, so I called base
operations to get permission to move the plane.  When getting the plane ready,
I made sure to arrange all my maps, tools, and my nav log such that they were
easily accessible, but also secure and stowed so I wouldn't lose them in the 
cabin.  The sectional maps were held with paper clips folded open to exactly
the portions I needed so that I wouldn't have to wrestle with a huge map in a 
small area.

I called Springs Clearance and got clearance to fly to Limon, then was ready
and taxied to runway 31.  In a few minutes we were off the ground and on our

On our climb out of the airport, we were transferred to Springs Departure, and
I requested a frequency change to the Denver FSS to open my flight plan.  
Opening the flight plan records the fact that you've started on your way and
also allows you to have your flight tracked as you go along.  Once I got it 
filed I received a new transponder code to squawk, to differentiate my plane
from others in the Denver area.

At my first waypoint, over the Northeast corner of Schriever AFB, I turned to
the estimated heading from my nav log, and started a timer that is on the 
Garmin transponder console.  The following waypoint was Spring East airport, 
about six miles away.  I'd calculated it would take 2 minutes 48 seconds to
reach the centerline of the airport.  Without watching the clock, I stopped it
as the wing strut passed over the airport midpoint.  It stopped at 2 minutes 47
seconds.  Not bad!  Based on the visual waypoints it appeared I was maybe about 
half a mile off course, but not a huge deal.  I reset and restarted the timer 
for the next waypoint.

As we leveled out at our cruising altitude, I performed the cruise checklist,
which involved setting the throttle to the optimal cruise RPM (2500 in this
case) and leaning the mixture (fuel flow) to 7.9 gallons per hour.  Leaning
the fuel properly provides the optimal fuel-to-air ratio for combustion, and
thus improves the output temperature as well as the fuel consumption.

The airport at Calhan was the next waypoint, about 4 miles to the left of our 
path.  I could pick it out because of the way the highway bent around the town,
and due to the presence of a couple of towers near the town that corresponded
with some shown on the sectional chart.  The calculation for this waypoint was
also only off by a few seconds.

The next waypoint was the dam at a reservoir off to the left.  One problem,
however, at least in Colorado is that often reservoirs are dry.  This was the
case today.  In fact both on the flight out and the flight back, we couldn't
identify where the reservoir was at all--the whole river bed was dry.  As a 
result we just moved onto the next waypoint...a unique turn in highway 24 
right after the town of Simla.  The calculations were still on target, about 20
seconds off from reality.

The weather today was very forgiving.  There was a high cloud cover over the 
plains extending from the North, keeping the sun out of my eyes.  Below, 
however, was 'severe clear.'  I could see the Spanish Peaks clearly, about 120 
miles or more away from Limon.  The Sangre Cristo range gleamed its pointy 
spine from even further back, and Pikes loomed majestically above the Springs.

We contacted Denver Radio to let them know we were descending into Limon and 
switched our transponder back to the VFR code (1200).  Since Limon is an
uncontrolled airport, we contacted the frequency for Limon and announced our
intention and position.  When an airport is uncontrolled, usually you 'self-
announce' on a specific frequency so any other aircraft in the area are aware
of your intentions.  This frequency is called CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory
Frequency).  We also listened to the automated weather service information 
broadcast to find the conditions on the ground at Limon.  The winds were calm, 
so we chose runway 34 to land and announced our intentions on the CTAF.

Coming in to land at Limon was a little different than COS...it is quite a bit
smaller.  The longest runway at COS is 13,500 feet long and 150 feet wide;
Limon is 4,700 x 60.  I didn't really have much of a problem coming in, and
wasn't really worried but it looked quite a bit different.  We came in with
a left pattern, the default if not specified because it gives more visibility
to the pilot.  I let down lightly on the runway, put up my flaps, throttled up
and in a few seconds we were on our way again.

All in all the trip to Limon was about 35 minutes.

It's always funny to me how much faster the trip is when going back.  In no time
it seemed we passed over Calhan, my signal that I should call into Springs
Approach to let them know I was inbound with the intention to land.  They 
instructed me to maintain my altitude of 10,500 (which on the radio is 
pronounced 'one zero thousand five hundred') and to set my transponder to a 
new code.  Eventually they passed me off to the tower, where they instructed us
to turn to runway 31 in a squared turn to final, by which they meant they
didn't want us to 'cut the corner' and land too soon due to traffic taking off 
of runway 35L.

I tried for a precision landing on runway 31, but touched just a little short
of the 'captain's bars,' the two large stubby lines on the runway that designate
the standard touchdown segment.  I could have reached them by pushing up the 
throttle just a touch, but it was otherwise a good landing.

My instructor was very happy with the flight.  He said that if he could rate it
on a scale of 100, it would rate about 95.  :)  When we refuelled, I had 
estimated about 13 gallons consumed, and the actual was about 11.5, so pretty
close.  Also, the overall estimated time for the flight was almost exactly 
right, just off a few minutes.  My instructor mentioned that he thought I
seemed very calm and not rushed, where many students feel overwhelmed by all 
the various tasks.  It was true; I think since really getting confident in my
landings I feel much better about juggling all the other tasks needed.  It
also helped that I'd studied and visualized the flight ahead of time.

After landing I called FSS to close my flight plan, letting them know I'd 
returned safely.

For the next few flights, my instructor said he'd like to have me practice 
landings at smaller, uncontrolled airports, to help improve my precision.  
After that, he wants me to solo cross-country to Limon!