Despite that cold front hundreds of miles away and heading away from us, I managed to finish that cross-country and get my ticket. But along the way nobody, not my instructor, not my examiner, talked much about all the things that a new IFR pilot like me was going to have to consider before launching on that IFR flight. What were the real weather hazards? What should I do about planning my instrument flight when there's high terrain? And how could I get to the point where my real flights weren't taking three hours to plan?
The people who really taught me to think as an instrument pilot were my colleagues Tom Benenson and Richard Collins and my boss, Mac McClellan. Tom's knowledge and experience with real IFR was a godsend. Always a realist, Mac demystified IFR for me, and much of that was through his straight talk about flight planning, a process that, even after I'd been IFR-rated for a while, was at times overwhelming for me. Likewise, Richard Collins was a great resource. Once, a few months after I'd gotten my ticket, he asked me how my instrument flying was going. I confessed that I was worried about being able to know precisely where the ice and thunderstorms were. He calmly told me that that was a good thing to be worried about.