Old Mags

All pilots share a common trait. Is it money? Background? Education? Daring, or caution? No, pilots come from a wide variety of backgrounds … all economic classes, upbringing, schooling and personalities. There is one thing seemingly all pilots share, though — that big stack of old aviation magazines. And there they are, just lying around waiting to do all of us a world of good … maybe in ways that aren’t so obvious. Yes, you’ve been misled. This is not a story about magnetos.

Pack Rats…
I’ve amassed thousands of aviation magazines over the years. Flying and Air Classics, Private Pilot, Plane and Pilot, old copies of Trade-A-Plane and Sporty’s Pilot Shop. EAA’s Sport Aviation and Experimenter; AOPA Pilot and Flight Training. Any number of Beechcraft type-club mags like American Bonanza Society, World Beechcraft Society, and the newsletter of the Australian Bonanza Society. In there somewhere are a few Airline and Airliner Quarterly rags, and for fun some copies of Model Airplane News. There are some more “professional” items like RATS and CATS (which are not predatory rivals, nor even competitors), AOPA’s InstructoReport, and Aviation International. Who knows what other magazines are in there?

Traditionally I’ve read a magazine, put it in a stack, and eventually put it in a box. I might pull out the box and thumb through a magazine a second time at some point in the distant future, usually when I was getting ready to move to a new home (such is the life of an aviator). The number of boxes has grown until it was “immovable,” and, at some point, I decided the Internet made enough information readily available that there was little need to save my old magazines any more (my wife was thrilled).

…and Eager Minds
So what do I do with old aviation magazines now? I’m spreading the word. A big part of preserving our aerial freedoms is public relations … to let nonpilots know we’re careful, sane people merely wanting to exercise one of the freedoms that makes our society great.

How do I spread the word? How do I aero-evangelize? I leave magazines lying around. In airports. On airliners. At the laundromat. In taxis. At the car dealership’s service department waiting room. I left some back issues with my doctor recently after he asked about one I was reading in the hospital. School libraries love the things, especially for the younger kids. High school vocational programs like the magazines with more technical, building-and-maintaining-related articles. Anywhere people thirst for knowledge or are simply held for long periods against their will (you can decide which category the schools fall into <grin>) is a good place to leave your used airplane magazines.

HERE’S A TEST: Take an airplane magazine next time you’re headed for a crowded airline terminal. Leave it, cover up, on a chair or table and walk away. From a distance, see how long it takes for someone to pick it up and carry it away (no, not the janitors). I’ve tried this frequently, and the time it takes for a new owner to “acquire” an aviation magazine is measured in seconds, not minutes. The interest is out there!

Who knows what’ll come of “giving” aviation magazines away?

  • First, I doubt it’ll negatively impact the number of subscribers as people “share” issues. In fact, since this gets aviation publications in the hands of persons who would not normally see them, it might actually lead to selling more subscriptions.
  • Second, as I’ve mentioned, aviation publications can expose the nonflying public to a side of lightplane flying they don’t normally see — the positive side. If all you know about a seemingly hazardous “extreme sport” is what you read in the newspapers, you’re bound to have a skewed view of its safety, practicality and joy.
  • Third, you might just give someone that extra push they need to begin flying themselves. I was in my doctor’s office yesterday and noticed the issues I’d given him for his office were not there. Why not, I asked? Because, I was told, my nonpilot doctor took them home to keep for himself.

WAYBACK MACHINE: My own interest in aviation was sparked in part by discarded magazines. My father, a mechanic with United Airlines, often brought me magazines that had been left on board the UAL 747s coming into his station at Honolulu. Although a lot of the magazines were in German, I could still look at the pictures and, as I progressed in my studies in high school, later I could at least read the captions.

BOTTOM LINE: Okay, it’s not the Gideon Bible. But we pilots suffer from a lot of bad press and misinformation among the public. Yet the person on the street seems to have an almost insatiable desire for “fun” airplane information … or at least pictures. Don’t litter, but if you’ve decided you don’t need to keep every magazine that comes your way, why not use them to spread the good word about personal aviation?