AIN Blog: Business Jet Traveler: The First 10 Years

 - October 3, 2013, 9:05 AM

You need only glance at the first cover of Business Jet Traveler, from October 2003, to see how far it has come. The magazine, which I edit, began as an outgrowth of Aviation International News and, in its early issues, seemed more like a clone than an offspring. Like AIN, the original BJT measured 12 by 14 inches, and its first cover (at left) looked nothing like the ones we produce today. It squeezed in one full news story, the opening paragraphs of two others, capsule summaries of eight more, a tiny graphic, a numerical table, two thumbnail-sized airplane photos and a relatively large picture of a Citation X.

Over time, we stopped placing articles on the cover and started featuring photos of people. Then we dropped the capsule summaries so we could make the photography more predominant.

Next, in 2008, we introduced a complete redesign that incorporated an even less cluttered cover, a new logo, smaller pages and many other changes, including perfect binding and better paper. While we had spotlighted a few prominent business jet travelers in our pages before that year, we now began offering exclusive interviews with well known private fliers in virtually every issue, starting with political consultant James Carville and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson. (Also in 2008, we began providing business jet coverage to Barron’s. Our collaboration with the exalted Dow Jones weekly continues to this day.)

We’ve instituted other editorial changes, too. In July 2008, for example, we debuted an annual Buyers’ Guide that has been a hit with readers. Last year we began producing a yearly Chinese-language edition of this guide as well, primarily for distribution at the Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE). We’ve also introduced a website, an app for iPhone and iPad, a Zinio digital edition and BJTWaypoints, a twice-weekly e-mailed newsletter.

In our February/March 2009 issue, after Detroit’s auto-industry CEOs took heat for flying privately to Washington to make their case to Congress for bailouts, we published a widely discussed cover story by Robert Mark on how to respond to increased scrutiny of business aviation use. The piece, called “Defending Your Jet,” won Rob an Aerospace Journalist of the Year Award as well as a Gold Wing Award from the National Business Aviation Association.

We took home another Gold Wing for “The Bizav Advantage,” a special section that we published in the October/November 2010 issue. This 10-part package incorporated such features as “The Case for Bizav, in Dollars and Cents,” “When There’s No Substitute for a Business Jet” and “2,787 Airports and Counting.”

A year later, in the October/November 2011 issue, we showcased the results of our initial Readers’ Choice survey—the first comprehensive poll of business jet travelers to assess their likes and dislikes regarding aircraft models and manufacturers; charter, jet cards and fractional-share providers; and more. The survey garnered wide participation and strong response and has since become an annual tradition. (See results of our latest Readers’ Choice poll.)

The June/July 2012 issue found us debuting yet another popular feature: BJT’s Book of Lists, which has also become an annual offering.

Such innovations have helped us to win 21 major journalism awards since 2005, including some for which we vied not just with aviation publications but with all business magazines in the U.S. Just a few months ago, in fact, we were named one of the best business magazines in the country in a competition sponsored by the American Society of Business Publication Editors. This is the second time in the past three years that we have won this honor.

It gives me particular satisfaction to note that as the publication has improved, we have enjoyed an increasingly lively dialogue with our readers. In the early days, we rarely heard from enough of you to publish a letters column; now, in virtually every issue, we run a full page of letters that has room for only a fraction of the feedback we receive.

While much has changed, however, some things remain the same. As always, we’re working to make every issue better than the one that preceded it. And as always, our cover incorporates the line that has served as our mission statement since Vol. 1, No. 1: “maximizing your investment in private air transport.” That’s still our primary goal and I imagine it always will be.

I don’t want to close this piece without a few personal notes.

I arrived at Business Jet Traveler in March 2004, only a few months and issues after the magazine debuted, having been hired as business editor by then editor-in-chief (and now company COO) Randy Padfield. At the time, I knew next to nothing about the business jet field, but Randy said he hired me partly for that reason. (For once, ignorance paid off for me!) He already had plenty of people on staff and on call who were experts in the field; what he needed was somebody with something closer to a passenger’s perspective, who could strip away industry jargon, address our subscribers in plain English and ask the same questions they would ask.

The job sounded interesting but, looking at the few issues that had been published before I arrived, I had no idea just how interesting it would become. How could I have guessed back then that a few years later, I’d be interviewing the likes of Sir Richard Branson, F. Lee Bailey and Suze Orman for BJT—or editing contributions to the magazine by people like John Travolta, Molly Ringwald and Buzz Aldrin?

Nor could I have guessed just how much fun it would be to work here.

I want to express my gratitude to Randy as well as our company’s owner and cofounder, Wilson Leach, for giving me the opportunity to join the great group of people who produce BJT and our other publications. And speaking of Wilson, he deserves plaudits for coming up with the idea for Business Jet Traveler in the first place—and for having the courage to launch and stick with a print publication in a decade when many people were writing obituaries for print.

I also want to thank our company-wide editor-in-chief, Charlie Alcock; production director Mary Mahoney; production editor Jane Campbell; creative director John Manfredo; graphic designers Mona Brown, John Lewis, Lysbeth McAleer and Colleen Redmond; and web developer Mike Giaimo. Thanks, too, to our talented stable of freelance writers, photographers and illustrators; and to our hard-working sales staff, led by publisher Tony Romano and associate publisher Nancy O’Brien. At a small magazine like this one, every one of these people plays a huge role. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be on our team.

Finally, a special thank you to Jennifer Leach English. Three years ago, when I became editor of BJT and she became editorial director, we knew each other just a little and could only hope that our interactions would be pleasant and productive. They’ve been a lot more than that. In fact, I can’t imagine a better or more enjoyable working relationship than the one I have with Jennifer, whose creativity and upbeat, supportive approach add much to our office and to this magazine. I’m lucky to count her as a colleague and even luckier to call her a friend.

So here we are, 10 years down the road. My daughter, who was four when I arrived at Business Jet Traveler, is in high school; my son, who was eight, is away at college. My wife and I have a few more gray hairs and I have a bit less hair of any color. But I’m still having fun with BJT, and I hope you are too. Please stay tuned—we’re already cooking up exciting plans for the months and years ahead.