Even though I had met Mark some 5 or more years ago, I had never really sat down and talked with him and got to know him at all. Pooling up with him to head out to Edwards the day of our flight allowed us to talk about everything from towing to how we each got into aviation. I found it ironic that even though we fly at opposite ends of the spectrum of flight for our work (his being jets, mine hang gliders) we had very similar starts.
We were both born in the late middle fifties and in the early to mid 70's started hang gliding. We both got a start in post highschool schooling in engineering but after about 2+ years did a mid school course switch in an attempt to satisfy an inner burning desire to fly. We both then approached the military as an attempt to get our wings. This is where we diverged our parallel paths. Mark , in choosing between the Air Force and the Marines, chose the Marines and got his jet wings. I on the other hand, perhaps due to the very limited supply of military flying jobs in Canada (my home country) turned down the submarine position that was offered to me and decided to build my wings for myself in hang gliding.
Over the next 20 years we have each logged about 4500 hours in our chosen streams of flight. Mark's main airtime has been a fairly equal split between F4's T38's and F18's and a few years back did a switch from the Marines to NASA where he currently works as a research and test pilot. The only thing that my career could display as a parallel is that at the time of his switch, I got an add-on to my career with being hired as a Wills Wing test pilot.
On weekends, Mark gets to go hang gliding and paragliding but unlike Mark, on my days off I don't get to go fly jets. ... Oh well, for at least I've tasted of it and as Leo said , now I'll train my eyes on the skies for those lucky dogs cause I've been there and would just love to go again.