My instructor and I were quiet as we flew, winging along, a couple of hundred feet above the starkly beautiful western Mojave Desert. I was doing the flying, working on my commercial certificate (which I would not complete for another decade and a half ), and the guy in the right seat, Si Campbell, was doing the instructing, which he mostly did without saying a word. When he did say something, it carried weight. That early-spring day was perfect for flying. The winds were a whisper, and the air was crystal blue. Such spring days pass for a near-miracle in those parts. From January through around May, the wind mostly whips in from the southwest, stirring up dust and turning the air light dusky brown. Not that day.