Ten years earlier, Johnny had walked into Air Desert Pacific of La Verne, California, and demanded its best, most experienced flight instructor. He got me instead. I was recently returned from the frozen tundra of Grand Forks, where I had finished my degree at the University of North Dakota and flight instructed during my senior year. But a lot had changed in the eight months since I'd left Southern California, beginning with the events of Sept. 11. Both major and regional airlines were furloughing thousands. Flight schools, already hit hard by the weeks-long grounding after the attacks, were seeing a marked downturn in training that would never entirely recover and would conspire with spiraling fuel and insurance costs to put many out of business. But nobody knew that yet, and most of my friends and I were adjusting our plans for what we assumed was simply another cycle in a notably cyclical industry. In my case that meant flight instructing longer than planned. I didn't mind; the initial struggles had faded, I had seen a few things that could kill me, I'd learned better ways to teach, and I had discovered that I actually enjoyed instructing. But I'd be damned if I'd suffer through another North Dakota winter — it was back to sunny SoCal for me, crowded airspace and all.