LOG ENTRY - 15-FEB-2012                                        Matt Borland
  Flight: 36 - 15-FEB-2012 - 0.9 hr - Night flight
  Depart: KCOS ~1850 -> Arrive: KCOS ~1944

Tonight I became one of those little lights that buzzes about the night sky.

It's a requirement for your pilot license that you have ten night landings and 
three hours of night flying.  For the purposes of training, night is considered 
to be one hour after sunset, so I scheduled this session to start around 6:30, 
so we could be taking off around 6:50.  Around 6:15 I did my preflight in the 
sub-freezing temperature, with only the dim lights of the airport and my 
flashlight to see what I was doing...this made me feel like a safe-cracker.  
It's best to use red lights so that your eyes can remain acclimated to the 
darkness, but all I had was my uber-bright LED flashlight.

After getting back to the hangar for a few moments to warm up, my instructor 
and I returned to the plane.  I had to give the engine a couple shots of the 
manual primer due to the cold, and once I did it started right up.

I dangled my flashlight from my jacket zipper so I could go through my 
checklist, and turned on the interior lighting...a very dim but adjustable 
overhead red light.  My instructor wore a headlamp that could swap between red 
and white light...I'll have to get one of those.

To taxi, I turned on the taxi lights, which are on a knob with three positions: 
in (off), one notch out (taxi lights), and two notches out (landing lights).  
The lights in the T-41C are positioned on the left wing but are angled a little 
to center on the taxiway in front of you.  The cabin quickly warmed up as we 
taxied out to runway 17R.  Traffic around the airport was pretty quiet, so in a 
few moments we were off into the black.

My first impression was that this wasn't immediately much different from 
daytime flight...I had to still stay in the airport traffic pattern, so I was 
still checking the same controls and performing the same maneuvers as before.  
But once I was straight and level in my downwind leg (parallel to the runway) I 
could take in the view.  To my left and ahead of me, the glistening sprawl of 
Colorado Springs; to my right, the darkness of the eastern plains; beneath, the 
geometrically precise colored dots of the airport's taxiways and runways...most 
notably the blues of the taxiway edges connecting dozens of paths and 
intersections.  Airplane traffic around the city was very visible to me as 
bright points wandering about the horizon.

I didn't have much time for sight-seeing though; my goal was to perform seven 
or eight landings, and I had to keep in the pattern as directed by the tower.  
On my first couple of landings I had to fight off what I felt was a pretty 
strong wind from the east, so strong I had to turn the yoke far to the left, 
but at the same time keep a very heavy right rudder to keep my nose centerline 
with the runway.  (There are other ways to combat a crosswind, but this is the 
preferred method.)  My instructor seemed very concerned because this is an 
uncoordinated situation, but I insisted that there was a pretty good 
crosswind out there.  We did a wind check, which is just calling "wind check" 
into the tower, and they responded "zero eight zero at ten knots."  This means 
a ten-knot wind from the east...so basically since we were landing directly to 
the south, this meant we had a 90 degree crosswind at the maximum allowed for 
student pilots.  :P  My instructor apologized for doubting my handling of the 

For landing, you obviously turn on your landing lights.  These make it easier 
for other planes to see you, but they also play the important role of being 
your headlights so you can see the runway once you're really close.  To 
demonstrate a power-out situation, we did one landing without the landing 
lights, and although we could still do it (you just use the side lighting on 
the runway as a guide) it was a bit harder to see exactly where the centerline 
was, especially once we were landed and rolling along.

After seven landings on runways 17L and 17R, we called in for a final landing 
on 13.  This was a little less of a crosswind, and I did what is called a 
short-field landing...basically you come in a little slower and modify your aim 
point so that you land in a shorter distance.  My instructor told me if I did 
it OK I should be able to turn at the Bravo 3 intersection, which is in the 
first quarter of the runway or so, and so I did as instructed and in a few 
minutes we made it back to the hangar.

Tonight was pretty amazing, but I didn't really get much time to enjoy the 
strangeness and wonder of night flight.  Next week I'm planning to do my night 
cross-country flight, a longer flight down to Lamar, about 120 miles each way 
into the eastern plains.  THAT should be surreal...I'm looking forward to it!