Here's my story about "backwards brain" conversions. I once had the awesome opportunity to "fly" for a few hours in the United Airlines flight simulators down in Denver. I am not a pilot, so it was all new to me. The instructor (a ski instructor friend of mine who was also a long-time full-time United pilot) showed me the basics--how to scan the instruments in a sort of circular pattern, how to steer with my feet on the pedals when the plane was on the ground, and so on. You push on the right pedal to turn right, which seemed counter-intuitive to me, since if it was a handlebar, you'd think that you'd push the left side forward to turn right. I had to think about it each time, but I got it, with some practice. We "taxied" around on the runway for a bit, turning left and right and following the painted lines.
Then we went over take-off procedures, and I finally pushed forward on the throttle handles and the plane roared down the runway. "...V1...V2 Rotate" I pulled back on the yoke, and the plane nosed up into the "air."
Did I mention that the whole experience, even though "just" a simulator, was so real-feeling that it brought beads of sweat to my brow. I was incredibly focused as we then played around with raising landing gear, changing headings, changing altitude, making turns while holding altitude, "cleaning up" the flight controls of the plane to make it handle more easily, and so on, all while scanning the instruments and ... trying not to die. We made several landings and take-offs--none of them perfectly smooth, but all "acceptable." "Steer with your feet," the instructor reminded me once the nose wheel was on the tarmac.
It is amazingly realistic, with the plane tipping and diving and lurching, and bouncing with a not-perfectly-smooth landing. The pedal-steering had become a little more intuitive and second-nature--I didn't have to think about it quite as much--but it never seemed completely intuitive. Great fun. I even did a complete barrel roll.
The only problem with those things is that they come with this idiot who sits behind you with a laptop that can make bad things happen. Weather, ice, systems failure, engines falling off, and such. At one point, they "made" me land the thing in zero visibility--or at least, at the minimum allowable visibility--at night. That was really scary. I scanned the instruments, trying to keep the plane between the converging lines that indicated the necessary glide path. But I couldn't see anything outside. I knew that the planet was down there somewhere, rising toward me quickly, and that we were due for an inevitable collision. I could see the instruments, but I didn't trust them, maybe. What had been pretty easy when I was relaxed was much harder now--the plane moved up and down and left and right as I over-corrected and over-corrected again, but somehow we stayed in the general part of the "cone" where we belonged. Closer, closer...all of a sudden I saw the white dashed lines of the runway appear through the fog and rain, and I lurched the plane back up a little in reaction to it, then over-corrected and brought it back down too steep. Touched the runway, bounced back up, lurched again, and then smashed back down, the simulator flailing around violently, making it seem all too real. Nose wheel down finally, "STEER WITH YOUR FEET" yelled the instructor, and I pressed first one pedal, went the wrong way, pressed the other pedal, over-correcting, over-corrected again, and veered off the runway into the grass, the plane violently jumping and lurching and shifting as I tried to keep control of it, until after what seemed like minutes of this jerking and thrashing, it finally came to a stop in the weeds. I suspect that I was ghost white with sweat!
I had clearly passed the threshold of information overload--or at least, new information overload. The final straw was the "steer with your feet" and those "backwards" pedals. Apparently, it was still a "good" landing, in the sense that we walked away from it, and that they would probably be able to use the plane again!
Later, I was discussing it with my instructor and I told him that the pedals always seemed counter-intuitive and backward, and he asked me why I hadn't visualized skiing? In a ski turn, your right foot is forward of your left (tip lead) in a right turn, just as with the pedals on the plane. Immediately it all came clear, and I believe that if he had suggested that while we were flying, it would have immediately clicked and that the pedal technique would have seemed intuitive. I had simply been visualizing the wrong image--the image of handlebars on a bicycle.
I'd love to try it again. It was an incredibly fun experience, as well as an incredible learning experience. It still makes me breathless to recall it!
And, if any pilot ever needs a hand or needs advice, I am fully trained now.