Flight Journal

Model Airplane News turns 75!

Model Airplane News turns 75!

DeFrancesco, Louis Jr

DURING THE YEARS that we have been publishing Flight Journal, we have interviewed many pilots whose actions have made history, and almost 100 percent of the time, they begin by telling us, “When I was a kid, I built model airplanes….” Although each story is unique from that point on, almost universally, the model airplane was the outlet for their passion for aviation and set the course for the rest of their lives. Here at Air Age Media, we could say the same of our company’s story; we first focused on model airplanes, and then we grew-but we never left model airplanes behind.

This year is the 75th anniversary of one of our sister publications, Model Airplane News, which is the seed from which Air Age Media grew. It’s really interesting to thumb back through the old, yellowing copies of Model Airplane News because through those magazines, you can clearly see not only how the model environment grew, but also how the models mirrored what was happening in the full-scale arena.

When my grandfather, George Campbell Johnson, started the magazine, it was a different world, and he was very much a man of that era. A cavalry officer, a pilot, a publisher and an enthusiastic individual, he saw the flying model as a natural and relatively easy way for young people to become actively involved in aviation. The practical gasoline model engine was still years away, and rubber bands powered those dreams crafted by young hands, but it was a start.

In that first year, 1929, the world still had a serious case of “Lindbergh fever,” and the very concept of aviation was fresh. Even the stock market crash later that year couldn’t damp that enthusiasm. It was a year of contradictions. It began with unbridled optimism and ended with a depression; Jacqueline Bouvier was born and Wyatt Earp died but model airplanes-and Model Airplane News-continued to grow.

As aviation technology progressed, so did the model airplane. The Brown Jr., a now-archaic-looking gasoline engine, revolutionized the model industry in the early ’30s. As the P-26 Boeing fighter ushered in the end of the biplane fighter, the little Brown drew more young people into model aviation that in turn inspired them to fly the real things. By the time WW II created the need for hundreds of thousands of young men to fly, build and fix airplanes, an entire generation of young people already knew the basics of aerodynamics and how engines worked. Did the model airplane contribute to America’s war effort? If you ask any of those who were a part of it, they’ll all answer in the affirmative.

It takes only a cursory examination to see how advances in full-scale aviation somehow found their way down into models. Sometimes, these ideas incubated entirely new modeling trends, e.g., radio control. Other concepts like the jet engine have only recently begun to influence model airplanes because the technology could not be duplicated at a reasonable price.

As you look at the older issues of Model Airplane News, you realize you’re looking at aviation, not only as it existed at the time, but also as it was simplified to make it more accessible to young minds. It’s personally gratifying to see that my grandfather wasn’t just putting out a magazine; he was educating and inspiring young minds. It could be said that he contributed to a war victory that was a decade away.

If you look across the landscape of the magazine business, you see journalistic corpses stretching to history’s horizon. There have been many more failures than successes. Those that have remained standing have done so because of one, and only one, reason: their readers have supported them. That’s exactly the way it is with Model Airplane News, and, hopefully, the way it will continue to be with Flight Journal.

Readers are what give a magazine longevity, and for that reason, we want to thank you and pledge that we will continue to work diligently to keep your support.

I’d like nothing better than to see my grandchild penning an editorial that celebrates the 75th anniversary of Flight Journal. Of course, that would make it the 142nd anniversary of Model Airplane News-a fact that is sobering and yet makes an exciting goal.

So, do we have a date to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Flight Journal together? The year will be 2070. See you then; we’ll bring the pizza.

by Louis DeFrancesco Jr., CEO Air Age Media

Copyright Air Age Publishing Feb 2004

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