LOG ENTRY - 13-APR-2011                                        Matt Borland
  Flight: 1 - 13-APR-2011 - 1.2 hr - Intro to turns, climb/desc/level flight
  Depart: KCOS ~0900  Arrive: KCOS ~1012

Today was a fun day.

I've been taking ground school from the Rocky Mountain Flight Training
Center, which is an aero club run out of the Air Force base near where
I work.

Until today, my training has all been on the ground.  In ground school, you're
barraged with physics, meterology, navigation, and a heavy dose of regulations.
During the course you can try to imagine how all this affects your flight,
but you know that a lot of what you learn will take on a more powerful meaning
once you are behind the yoke and 2500 feet up.

I rested well for my first flight, with an introduction starting at 0730.
I was careful not to eat, lest I find myself with a case of sudden motion
sickness.  I also psyched myself into remembering a couple things: 1) do not 
fixate on the controls, and 2) don't hold the yoke in a death grip.

I showed up early at the hangar dedicated to the flight school.  Colorado 
Springs Municipal is shared with Peterson Air Force Base, and the flight school
is located on the base.  Outside the hangar it is common to have C-130s and
other aircraft running their engines or taxiing about.

This being my first time up for training, my flight instructor took me through
all the steps both administrative and procedural for preparing for a flight.
There are forms for the aero club and various log books and such to consult.
Then we had a preflight briefing to plan the objectives for the flight.
The course I'm taking has an anticipated schedule for what tasks you perform
on which flight, but this varies widely dependent on the student.

Then we performed a series of checklists relating to the plane.  This included
inspection of the plane's exterior and various tests on the outside as well as
the instruments and various systems such as the engine and electrical systems.

Opening the door of the plane, I found myself with a feeling mixed with both
concern and familiarity; the cracked blue vinyl interior and rugged controls 
reminded me of the age of the plane (original build, late 60s) but also
brought back memories of my brother's blue '68 Coronet from high school. The
interior of the cabin seemed sort of small and I wondered if I could truly
fit in the seat comfortably.

Once I was in, those concerns fell away.  The instruments seemed in good 
condition, I fit fine in the seat, and the engine sounded great.  I also
noticed absolutely no presence of apprehension on my part, which surprised me.
After 25 years of flying simulators, I was finally able to see the real
instruments and the reality of it all dispelled any expectations of 

My instructor did all of the talking on the radio.  This is apparently a large
cause for anxiety for many pilots...and to some degree I could see why.
The speech is rhythmic and precise and without much flourish...far from
the way most of us talk in our daily lives.  Once we were cleared to taxi
my instructor taxied us off the ramp and once on the taxiway, I had the 

On these planes, you control ground directional movement with your feet.  You
use the pedals to turn both the nosewheel as well as the rudder, both of which
aid your plane in turning the appropriate direction.  You may also use the 
brakes which operate independently on the right and left back wheels, allowing
you to pivot much like a tractor or tank.

Taxiing was a little weird at first.  I was pretty good at using my feet 
rather than the yoke to turn, but keeping the guide line underneath me was
a little tricky.  Get distracted for a moment and you can veer off quite a
bit.  To me it felt as though I was constantly weaving back and forth and
correcting and overcorrecting.  As we approached the appropriate turnoff
my instructor took the controls and we waited for clearance to take off.

A larger jet took off in front of us, meaning among other things that we
had to be aware of and wait for the clearing of turbulence caused by its
takeoff.  We got clearance, then in a short time we were airborne.

The T41C is not a plane you could have found on the market; it's a trainer
plane specially built for the Air Force, then inherited by the aero club.  It
has a stronger engine than many comparable trainers, and trainer planes in 
general are built to be more stable, meaning that it tends to correct
its position under the influence of turbulence.

I reflected upon takeoff that again I was not feeling any apprehension. 
Instead I was feeling curious and content.  Although there was some haze, 
there was good visibility and I looked about to get a sense as to the 
pitch of the plane in our ascent.  We shortly turned East to the designated
training area.

At this point my instructor passed the controls to me (verbally; we both have
physical controls that act in tandem).  The plane felt responsive and I 
kept my resolve in keeping only one hand on the controls (the other placed
loosely on my lap) and in fact only varied from this on a few occasions where
I somehow was reaching, as if to shift, and my right hand came into contact 
with the yoke.  Similarly, I kept my eyes outside and tried to see my 
attitude and use the controls to keep level.  My instructor would correct me 
if I started to veer a little too much (up, down, or otherwise).

On our way to the practice area, we passed very near to Schriever Air Force
Base, which I'm familiar with, but had to be careful not to pass over as it
is restricted airspace.  Schriever has several 200' 'golf ball' radomes that
are quite visible and the base buildings, parking lots and other structures
are clustered into a tight square that is quite distinguished from the farm and
ranch land that surrounds it.  Throughout our practice session, the base was a 
good point of reference, if for no other reason than to make sure that you don't
overfly it.

Most of the maneuvers were between 8500 and 9000 feet (Mean Sea Level), which
given the approximate elevation of 6000+ feet means that we are operating about
2500 feet above the ground.  Strangely I did not feel the typical sensation
I have when traveling by plane of being 'unusually' above the ground.  I 
just felt like: "Here I am, 2500 feet above the ground on a sunny day."

We practiced coordinated turns and climbing and descending turns.  A 
coordinated turn means that the plane is banked and the rudder is ensuring
that the plane doesn't 'slip' or 'skid' relative to the intended path
of the turn.  There is an instrument (the turn indicator) that helps you 
manage the coordination because it requires not only using the yoke (for
the bank) but also your pedals (for the rudder).  In talking with others,
many people fixate on the turn indicator, but I tried instead to use that
only quickly as a reference to see if I could keep coordinated, but once 
coordination was established, to use visual and seat-of-the-pants cues to
maintain coordination.  After a couple of turns this became easier, and
my flight instructor afterwards gave me very positive feedback about how I
picked it up...almost to the point of wondering whether I had logged hours

I very much liked my instructor.  He was very thorough in instruction, and
in each maneuver he assigned me he made it clear that he expected me to do
it 'right,' not just 'ok.'  This works fine with me because I would rather
do it right than anything else.  :-)  So even if I 'only' slipped 60 feet in
a 180 degree turn, or took took too long to establish a new heading, he'd point 
it out and thus cause me to remember to try to improve upon it next time.

After about 50 minutes, we headed back to the airport.  On the way, a few
birds came close, but we avoided them.  My instructor directed me how to
fly most of the way in, then took the controls for the final turn and landing.
Again, I was surprised by how this whole time my stomach was not in my throat,
and was pleased it was not so.

We landed, then I taxied to the fueling area to refill the tanks.  Then we 
taxied past the C-130s again and back to the trainer lot for parking and
performing the final checklists.  At this airport you need to be careful not 
to taxi into the wrong areas (sectioned off by a red painted line)...those
areas are restricted for military use only.

In chatting with my wife afterwards, I was struck again by how 'normal' this
flight had seemed.  I thought I would be overwhelmed, exhilarated, exhausted or
otherwise experiencing some sort of otherworldly feeling.  But instead,
I was just pleasantly happy.

Goals for the future:
 * Get better at getting quickly into the turn while maintaining coordination
 * Use the trim control
 * Listen better to ATC/try to track taxiing directions
 * Bring a hat and a kneeboard