LOG ENTRY - 04-JAN-2012                                        Matt Borland
  Flight: 31 - 04-JAN-2012 - 1.6 hr - First Cross-Country Solo
  Depart: KCOS ~0850 -> KLIC -> Arrive: KCOS ~1026

Today's flight was the best flight I've ever flown!  It was my first cross-
country solo flight, from Colorado Springs to Limon and back.  Everything went
well, and moreover I was happy, calm, and feeling very confident the whole 

It had been almost a month since my last flight, so yesterday I did a lot of
review of my airwork and landings.  I was a little rusty but most of my skills
came back quickly.  My instructor told me I was good to do my cross-country 
solo after that.

That night at the hotel I did a couple things.  First, I set up my navigation
log, marking each waypoint and determining the distance, altitude, and true
heading for each.  Second, I took time to meditate and relax.  I was feeling a
little nervous, not about anything in particular, but because I think I was
experiencing a little bit of an pre-emptive adrenaline rush.  It's important
to have your mind in a good place and to have good sleep before flying, so 
meditating helped me relax a little and focus my attention on the basics.

I got up at 6 and got into the hangar a little after 7.  The weather was 
great...clear with light winds aloft.  Winds at the altitude I'd be cruising 
at were expected to be about 5-7 knots...not very strong at all.  I prepped the 
plane, filed my flight plan and was ready to go.

By this point I was feeling very confident...the sun was up and I was feeling
great.  I started the engine, called into clearance, and in a couple of minutes
was taxiing to the threshold of runway 31, where I did my run-up and called in 
ready for takeoff.  I held short of traffic for a minute, then they told me to 
line up and wait.  Finally I was given the go-ahead and throttled up and was
off the ground in a few seconds.

After a few minutes I had transferred to Springs departure and asked to go off 
the frequency to contact the Denver FSS to open my flight plan.  Once I switched
back to departure, I was getting about 10 miles outside of the airport and was
reaching my cruising altitude.  At this point, I throttled back to the cruising
RPM and adjusted the fuel mixture to a little under 8 gallons an hour.  

At this point I was feeling very good--for the first time in all the training,
I was just flying for the sake of flying.  I was still performing all the 
operations I needed to--scanning for traffic, listening to the radio, timing
my waypoints, and keeping the plane on course--but for the first time I was 
just enjoying the act of flying on a beautiful day.  More than on my last 
cross-country flight, I divided my attention well enough to better maintain
my altitude and course.  I was flying at 9500 feet, so about 3/4 of a mile above
the ground.  From this vantage point, you can see objects on the ground below 
for a pretty good distance, probably about 15-20 miles, and on a clear day like 
this the only limits to your vision are due to the curveature of the Earth.

The skies were not only clear of clouds, but air traffic as well.  The snow from
last weeks' storm was still pretty well covering the ground, so all the 
rivulets in the plains were shown in high relief.  

About 10 miles out of Limon, I made a radio call on the shared frequency to 
let any other planes know of my position.  Getting closer in, I knew 
approximately where the airport was but couldn't make it out just yet.  I had
planned on looking at Google Maps' satellite photos to better see where the
airport was in relation to the various buildings in the town, but forgot to do
that.  So I just had to look for it.  I knew the road it ran perpendicular to,
so I just entered a long base leg and when I spotted the strip I was able to
call my final turn.

My landing was not spectacular, but was pretty good, so after touching down I 
pulled up my flaps, throttled up and rotated back to lift off.

The way back was just as fun as going out...this time I had to climb to 10,500
feet, so I was a full mile above much of the land below.  Pikes lay pretty
much in my direct heading, and the Spanish Peaks showed up clearly to the left.
Climbing to the cruising altitude, I felt I could sense a thinning of the air,
the propeller and wings responding a little differently than at 9,500 feet.
But at 210hp the engine still felt good and strong.  Because of the differences
of air pressure (and temperature, all related) you have to adjust various
aspects of your engine accordingly, such as the mixture and target RPM, based
off of guidelines in the plane's operating handbook.

Coming back within about a 20 mile range of the airport, I checked the 
automatic weather broadcast then called into Springs Approach.  Traffic became
a little busier as I came nearer and kept a close eye out for traffic through
the training area east of the airport.  ATC also watches for you, but you should
never rely on them to avoid other traffic.  A couple planes near my altitude
were within about a mile of me but they were no factor.  Finally I was
transferred to Springs Tower and I landed back on runway 31.

I was so happy and proud that I not only made it through the cross-country,
but so well and on such a beautiful day.  I even pushed the plane into its spot
on the ramp perfectly...a little tricky with the plane's 'tricycle' gear.  To 
make sure I didn't get too cocky, however, fate had me bang my head HARD on the 
under-wing doorstop as I was putting the airplane cover on.  I think the guys
running up an Air Force Gulfstream got a good chuckle out of that.

Coming up, I need to work more on the different types of landings, and on my
tested airwork.  Then, I'll do some longer cross-country flights and night 
flying...and will soon be ready for my check rides!