"Absolutely," I answer with a grin. "Just angle out to the west, over the ocean, so we're clear of their traffic pattern." Dan and I have known each other since we were 13 years old. Our lives have intersected and separated several times over the years, with big gaps in between. But as well as I might know him, I'm seeing - or perhaps just understanding - a new piece of him here, 1,000 feet above the California coastline. Dan had told me, more than once, that he'd originally set out to be a pilot and astronaut in life. After high school, he'd been accepted into West Point, where he majored in engineering, made top grades and was planning on becoming a military pilot, on track to a spot in NASA's astronaut corps. And, from everything I know about his mind, abilities and nature, I have no doubt that he would have been successful. But then a different kind of nature intervened. By the time he graduated from West Point, Dan had shot up to a towering 6 feet 5 inches tall - one inch taller than the cut-off for military pilots or astronauts. So much for all those dreams.