This week in Las Vegas, Trade-A-Plane–the “shoestring operation” that Cosby Harrison and his wife, Margaret, began in Crossville, Tenn., 76 years ago–continues as general aviation’s popular shopping guide. Born on the Harrison kitchen table, Trade-A-Plane is now a multimedia operation employing 150 people. The fourth-generation family business has expanded beyond the three-issues-a-month yellow newspaper full of aircraft, parts and equipment listings to an online resource serving a variety of industries.
Visitors to Trade-A-Plane’s Booth (No. C10230) can examine its website and pick up a complimentary issue of the paper, currently listing nearly 1,000 turbine aircraft for sale plus thousands of products and services. Also offered is a commemorative book with a collection of front cover cartoons from earlier issues.
“For decades, Trade-A-Plane’s symbol, a turbine aircraft circling the globe, has been a steadfast representation of our mission,” said associate publisher Rachel Hill. Of the 650,000 online visits in August 2013, more 150,000 were from outside the U.S. “We offer the best of both worlds–print and online–to reach the most qualified active buyers all over the world,” she added. A recent Readex Research survey showed that 90 percent of Trade-A-Plane readers are aircraft owners and that 67 percent of those with business aviation connections call it their primary shopping tool.
The first Trade-A-Plane issue, mailed to 9,000 transport pilots on Oct. 5, 1937, contained 76 ads. It was tough times in 1937 to be starting anything. Nevertheless, Cosby Harrison pursued his unique concept of making the publication an editorial-free list of shopping opportunities.
Originally a single 11- by 14-inch broadsheet, Trade-A-Plane, almost from the beginning, has included amusing cartoons on the publication’s cover. Still published three times a month, the publication circulates approximately 1.7 million copies annually in the U.S. and in 130 other countries.
Besides Trade-A-Plane, the staff also produces similar papers for heavy construction (in English and Spanish), oil and gas, as well as trucking. It has continued to expand into electronic publishing with WeatherTAP.com, a subscription weather service, and other Internet products. A commercial printing division serves other clients throughout the U.S.
Trade-A-Plane employed 13 people in 1945. Today, its employees still handle all company operations internally, including sales, customer service, graphics, composition, printing, binding and mailing. An end-to-end operation, the aviation publication is produced in TAP Publishing’s own Crossville printing plant.