During my frequent travels, I take advantage of down time at airports to catch up on my magazine pile. After finishing each magazine, I try to leave the still-fresh periodical where someone else can pick it up and possibly be inspired by what aviation has to offer.
It was the January 1976 issue of Flying that introduced me to the magic of aviation magazines. On the cover was handsome, young Richard Bach, smiling inside the tiny cramped cockpit of a sleek, yet stubby, airborne BD-5 jet. I read and reread that story and every single word in that issue, including all the advertisements, at least three times. (Like nearly everything else, some of Bach’s eloquent words are now available online. And click here for a terrific gallery of BD-5J photos, including a three-engine version.)
Alas, things aren’t the same in the magazine world. During a recent trip, I made a brief acquaintance with a mother and her pre-teen son in the airport food court. I had just finished reading an issue of a major monthly aviation magazine, and I offered it to the boy, hoping that he might find it interesting. He took it, with little enthusiasm. On the cover of this magazine was a business jet. I wondered whether the boy would find that airplane as inspiring as I did Richard Bach’s BD-5J.
Then I couldn’t help thinking that today, there really isn’t one aviation magazine—even AIN—that I would give to a kid hoping to stir that spark that leads to a path through the skies.
The magazine industry has gone through many changes, one of which is that a tight focus on serving a distinct audience is key to survival. I understand that magazines, like the one I gave the kid, need to create content that makes advertisers feel comfortable; why would a business jet OEM advertise if a magazine doesn’t clearly serve the business aviation audience? Yet there’s clearly something missing: a magazine designed to inspire future aviators, a magazine where a cover shot of a BD-5J would find a home, a magazine that you would give to a son or daughter, niece or nephew, grandson or granddaughter.
Maybe we should do something about this.
Each magazine serving aviation has specialized content serving its specialized audience. But almost every issue of every magazine also contains stories and photos that could inspire future aviators.
So here’s my idea. All the aviation publishers, including associations like the EAA and AOPA that do a great job publishing their own magazines for members, would contribute their most inspiring content for an annual publication that has the specific goal of creating interest in aviation in minds of young readers. This annual magazine would be published in an electronic format, not as a website, but as a single and complete issue, perhaps in Adobe PDF format and as a free app for tablets, making it easy for anyone to pass along and print, if they care to. The cost would be minimal, because all of the content would have already been created. Some voluntary layout and promotional work would be needed, or advertising sponsors could cover these expenses.
It’s hard enough getting young people interested in aviation. Some say this is because there are too many distractions and not enough time. Instead of accepting that this is the way it’s going to be, let’s offer our own aviation “distraction,” so when someone shows an interest in aviation, we have an exciting and inspiring publication to offer.