With this issue, we proudly unveil the new Plane & Pilot, a magazine and a brand committed to exploring the universe of all that matters to us pilots. Regardless of whether your flying is for recreation, for personal transportation, for business travel or for your day job, we’re on it, presenting stories, photos, opinion, technique and perspective based on our broad experience as real pilots flying real airplanes.
The first thing you likely noticed about the new brand is the sleek cover design and modern logo. It’s just the beginning of the transformation. As you leaf through the magazine, you’ll find that every page has a new look. The design is intended to make the experience of spending time with Plane & Pilot an easy and rewarding one. If you’re looking for clutter and design run amok, you should look elsewhere. The new Plane & Pilot is designed to look clean, elegant and strong. Like a very wise man once said, great airplanes are beautiful airplanes. We strive to achieve the same effect with this publication.
As proud as we are of the new design, we’re even more proud of what you’ll find wrapped up inside. With new writers, photographers, illustrators and editors, our content, we believe, has taken a quantum leap. We’ll put our team up against that of any aviation magazine. Game on.
How We Got Here
When our founding company, Werner Publishing, sold this title, and several others, to Madavor Media, Plane & Pilot was, frankly, in disarray. Instead of letting it fade away, Madavor made the decision to invest in bringing it back and making it stronger than ever. That’s what they hired me to do. After 20 years at a formerly great publication, I came to Madavor last fall with the goal of making Plane & Pilot into a world-class aviation publication, a goal that could be achieved only, I knew, if we created a team that could deliver world-class content to a world-class audience.
My goals were ambitious ones. I didn’t want to merely turn things around; I wanted to completely reimagine the magazine. Even more than that: I wanted to rethink the idea of the aviation magazine. Working with the talented team already here at Madavor, our new team set about to create a new brand that would embody all that was great about Plane & Pilot, most notably, a commitment to covering the world of truly personal flying, while expanding our reach and widening our focus. The new Plane & Pilot would be about new kinds of planes and new kinds of flying while still being a book about personal aviation, first and foremost. Moreover, I made the commitment to getting truly talented writers to come to this new brand. I wanted to create a place where great writing mattered more than sales opportunities, where we appreciated and challenged our remarkable audience, where great photography and great art coexisted with technical expertise, serious reporting and tough opinion.
During my 25 years in aviation journalism, I’ve learned to appreciate just how smart, knowledgeable and curious pilots are. I’ve also come to understand just how much they crave challenging content. As much as we pilots love to fly, we also love to read. So what you won’t be getting with the new Plane & Pilot is a dumbed-down version of anything. We celebrate the additional detail, the elaboration on a theme, the hard look at a touchy topic and the celebration of the very real poetry of flying. We strive to make Plane & Pilot smart, topical and occasionally heart-warming, too.
We’ve been working on this issue for about the past six months, and it has been hard work, with long hours and tough decisions. But it’s been good work, too. Our aim is nothing short of bringing you the best aviation magazine and digital experience in the world. We know this is a lofty goal, and we know it’s a moving target, but as some of our competitors focus increasingly on wide-body airliners or drone delivery stories, we’ll stick to our roots, focusing sharply on personal aviation from a personal perspective. We won’t get confused. How could we? Our mission is the title of the magazine.
“Our aim is nothing short of bringing you the best aviation magazine and digital experience in the world.”
That mission, you’ll see, is to bring you quality content from the front cover to the rear. To that end, we’ve done something that no other aviation magazine ever has: We’ve exponentially expanded our universe of writers, with fewer full-time columnists and more voices and faces populating the Plane & Pilot neighborhood. Some of your favorites are still here. Flip ahead, and you’ll see Patty Wagstaff, Bill Cox and Peter Katz doing their thing, but doing it bigger and better than ever.
But their columns are the exception. The big idea behind the shake-up and new makeup is the concept of spaces, shared places in the magazine where multiple writers are invited to share their stories. In the past, Plane & Pilot, like every other aviation magazine in the world, was largely written by columnists who owned their certain number of column inches, lock, stock and barrel. The results could range from great to something less so. The perspective, moreover, gave us a limited view.
We believe there’s room for more voices, voices with different ideas, experiences and ways of relating them. Aviation is sometimes said to be a small world, but there are many pilots out there who can wield a mean pen or telephoto lens. We intend to bring you a universe of work from a talented cadre of pilots and to expand that core as new talent emerges.
Toward that end, these spaces won’t be dedicated to a single columnist, but instead, to a topic. Our “AirFare” column, for instance, which you’ll find on page 22, is all about remarkable insights and experiences in commercial flying. This month, aviation writer extraordinaire and 747 pilot Mark Vanhoenacker writes about his life as a long-haul commercial air carrier pilot; in this case, he discusses the beginning of that life in the air. Next month, we’ll feature a different voice from a different writer sharing his or her adventures in flying for hire in a completely different world. In a couple of months, Mark will be back with a new magical tale.
To give another example, our column on aviation safety and risk management, simply called “Risk,” is penned this month by the remarkable iconoclast Roger Sharp; next month, award-winning CFI Eric Radtke will get the byline. The month after that, it will be someone else (we’re not telling yet). It won’t be one and done, though. Roger and Eric and the third and maybe fourth mystery expert will be returning again and again, for as long, in fact, as they have great stories to tell and lessons to teach—which, in the case of these folks, will be a good long while. New voices surely will pitch in along the way, as well.
The idea, again, is to bring you a variety of great writers telling their amazing tales and sharing their pointed opinions in their unique voices. What you get is variety, quality and a certain degree of unpredictability that we think you’ll welcome. In this way, the new Plane & Pilot isn’t new just with this issue; it will be new every time you pick it up.
All along we’ll be focused simply on bringing you the world of planes and pilots. The mission, remember, is in the title.
Last month, I introduced a couple of new contributors, best-selling author Mark Vanhoenacker and nationally acclaimed illustrator Gabriel Campanario. And you all know the remarkably accomplished Bill Cox and his 15,000-hour logbook, the topsy-turvy, tumbling aerobatics star and gifted storyteller Patty Wagstaff, and the insightful and analytic Peter Katz, who digs into the aftermaths of high-profile aircraft accidents to see what we can learn.
This month, I’d like to introduce a few more talented members of this bold Plane & Pilot experiment. Joining us as senior technical editor is Grant Opperman, a veteran of the high-tech industry and a pilot who regularly flies a high-performance single on both business and personal trips. Grant will bring us regular looks at how technology is changing the world of personal flying. Award-winning aviation writer and best-selling author James Wynbrandt, a longtime Plane & Pilot contributor and regular plier of the airways in his Mooney, joins the masthead as senior editor. The inimitable master flight instructor and examiner Roger Sharp comes to Plane & Pilot with his outside-the-box thinking on flying safety and checkride success, and longtime aviation writer and commercial pilot Lou Churchville brings his gripping first-person perspective to our pages, appearing as the quick-witted star of our very first “Lessons Learned About Flying (and about life).” Our end piece this month, “Contrails,” is written by W. Scott Olsen, whose attention to the inner detail of flying life adds a measure of warmth, perspective and deeper meaning to those moments that may seem unremarkable to less observant pilots and writers. We also have a new managing editor: The remarkably talented Maggie Devcich brings a wealth of experience to these pages and a gifted eye for helping us writers find our wordy way home.
I’d be remiss not to mention our talented designers, art director Mike O’Leary and lead designer Dave Yount, who worked long hours to redesign the magazine. We love the new look and hope you do, too.
Welcome to all. And welcome back to all of you.