The news from TAP Publishing in Crossville, Tennessee, the longtime home of Trade-A-Plane, the big yellow tabloid-style aviation classified ad periodical, is concerning. Here’s what we know.
Published since 1937, when founder Cosby Harrison launched a one-page classified sales sheet for airplanes, Trade-A-Plane has become synonymous with aviation-related classified advertising. The company, based in Crossville, Tennessee, during its entire 84-year history, is as iconic as the Piper Cub, and it’s roughly the same color too. The look and feel of the tabloid newspaper, published monthly, inspires in hundreds of thousands of aviators the dream of that first plane, or maybe that next one. Or it could be a rebuilt engine, a new radio or a partnership at your local airport.
Regardless of whether you were just supposing or had real cash money burning a hole in your jumpsuit pocket, Trade-A-Plane was the yellow saddle stitch magic carpet of aviation dreams, “was” being the operative term here, kind of.
Plane & Pilot has learned that Trade-A-Plane is done, well, at least the print version of it. According to our source, the tabloid’s last issue is coming up, and the business will shift to all digital immediately afterward.
The news should come as no surprise, though it’s one of those things that no one likes to hear. The business is challenging, with many competitors offering everything from cheap to free advertising and offering those listings to buyers at that same low price of free. This has been the case for almost two decades now, and Trade-a-Plane, which started up an aggressively innovative online presence years ago couldn’t compete with the economics of free ads no matter how cleverly it positioned itself.
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For those of us who grew up with Trade-A-Planes spread across the coffee table or kitchen counter, with pages dog-eared to mark the latest greatest wishlist item, the demise of the analog, newsprint version is sad news indeed. The good news is that TAP will continue to run its successful online sales site, trade-a-plane.com, which the company claims gets around nine million page views, per month. And there’s quite a bit of yellow on the site’s borders, so that’s nice. But for pilots who grew up with the big yellow dream-book of a mailer, it could never really be the same.