Publisher Louis DeFrancesco sat across the table from my wife, Marlene, and me on the second floor of an Italian restaurant in the Biltmore section of Phoenix and said, “We want to start a new magazine—only rather than being a hobby magazine, like our Model Airplane News, we want it to be on full-scale aircraft. We’re not sure exactly what market niche we’re going after. What do you suggest, and would you be the senior editor?”
I had known and worked with Louis on various projects at Air Age Media since the early ’80s, but this was every magazine writer’s dream: an opportunity to be an integral part of bringing a new magazine to life and not only helping to design the content but also building the contributor base as well. Had I died and gone to magazine-junkie heaven? It was hard to believe. As I’m sitting here typing this, it’s even harder to believe that I’m still doing an editorial for the same magazine 20 years after that delightful dinner. Louis even picked up the tab! What a night.
You’ll pardon us if we celebrate by devoting a portion of this issue to a look back at where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. We’re going to give you a few peeks behind the curtain and introduce you to some of the players/contributors who make the magazine what it is. We’ll also indulge ourselves a little by presenting thumbnail sketches of some of our favorite articles from the past.
After we gorged ourselves with delicious stories and ingested as much eye-candy airplane photos as we could hold, we thought this issue should also contain some seriously interesting and worthwhile new articles that include some facts that you might not know.
Also in this issue
Barrett Tillman’s analysis of the dreadful lack of preparedness in Japan during the last few months of World War II will certainly give an entirely new perspective on what was happening on the ground at the time. Through lack of planning, Japan was nearly defenseless in the air and had a civil-defense infrastructure that almost didn’t exist. It was a terrible time but brought an even more terrible war to an end.
Eddie Creek’s piece on the recently deceased Eric “Winkle” Brown of the RAF also presents a different perspective on WW II. This time, it is on what is undoubtedly the most experienced pilot to ever live. Brown was the UK’s designated top test pilot who, among other things, evaluated all German aircraft—including making the only powered flight in an Me 163 Komet by any other than a Luftwaffe pilot. Very high risk! He went on to set records right and left as the world moved into the jet age.
“Hollywood Heroes,” the article by Jim Farmer, is another peek behind the curtains, only this time the view is of silver-screen actors who had actually been “there” as functioning combatants during WW II. The article presents a lot of familiar faces that have little-known backgrounds. Did you know, for instance, that Charles Bronson had been a B-29 tail gunner, that Charlton Heston had been a radio operator/gunner on B-25s, or that Laugh-In’s Dan Rowan had bagged two Zeroes as a P-40 pilot? There are lots of surprises in this article.
So enjoy this special anniversary issue, while we look forward to our next 20 years.