By Howard Deevers
A pilot at Ryan Airport, just west of Tucson, decided to retire from flying and sold his airplane. That resulted in cleaning out the hangar. It took a while, but eventually he was giving away some of his collectable items. One of the most interesting items was a copy of FLYING MAGAZINE from June 1946. I had subscriptions to FLYING off and on, so was quite interested in this copy from 1946.
1946 was not long after the end of WWII, and there were articles predicting how General Aviation was going to grow. The magazine was 134 pages, with lots of ads, articles, and departments, like letters to the editor, and one that is still in the magazines today called, “I Learned About Flying From That!” It’s still one of my favorite sections to read in the magazine because you can learn from other pilots mistakes, and most articles end with “never again.”
This issue was packed with photographs of what we now call “vintage” aircraft. Jet travel was still several years in the future, and the DC-6 was a luxury airplane, along with the iconic “Connie.” There were many predictions of what air travel would be like in the future. It was fun to read these articles and see the pictures and compare that with what we see today. Much has changed, and much has stayed the same.
There were articles about engines and propellers, and very little has changed in those areas. We are still flying with Lycoming and Continental piston engines with some new refinements, but for the most part still the same engines that were being produced in 1946. An article on the Variable Pitch Prop was called the “Lightplane's Gearshift. Another article depicted the “flying car.” Attempts over the years to make a flying car still have not produced a vehicle that can serve both markets.
I really loved the article called “Television For Private Flying.” The author predicted, “In every cockpit a televised map of the ground beneath you-that's air navigation with a future.” Even television was very new at that time. Not until the early 50's did TV really start getting into every living room, and even at that time with only a few channels, and not 24 hours of broadcast. Radios and TV were still tube type receivers, and reliability was a big problem. Laptop computers and iPads were not even on the drawing boards. But the prediction that something like that would happen was most impressive. Now we do fly with an iPad that shows all of the features we need to fly safely. They are not a TV picture of the ground, but probably better, lighter weight, much more reliable, and updated every 28 days. GPS anyone?
An article written by William T. Piper titled “Let's Be Realistic About Private Flying” was also very interesting to read. He is pictured standing next to one of the J-3 Cub aircraft that Piper made. The Cub was so famous that many non-pilots referred to any single engine airplane as a Piper Cub. Bill Piper was pretty blunt in his article about the future, aircraft production, cost, government regulations and more. Piper said that Detroit could produce more cars in a day than all of General Aviation suppliers could in a year. Still a true statement. In the back few pages of the magazine there were ads for used airplanes, and Piper airplanes outnumbered all other ads. Some of those used airplane ads were for airplanes we don't see any more at all.
Another full page was from AOPA. AOPA had only formed in 1937, and the headquarters was still in Washington, DC. This must have been before the time that they produced their own publication, AOPA PILOT. In one page they covered many subjects, many of which we still talk about today: Landing Fees, Uniform Air Marking, FCC Form Simplification, Noise Abatement, Crash Injury Study, Inspection Slow-Down, and other subjects. These were addressed to the CAA, because it was before the time that the CAA became the FAA.
The ads for radios were interesting. Most of them I have never seen, and I thought that I had seen a lot of old radios. None look like what we use today; the way they tune, the limited frequencies, and there were NO navigation features. Some of the technology we learned during WWII did make it to GA later on.
It is fun to read history, but this magazine is not a history book. It was depicting the “cutting edge” of aviation at that time. It is history now, and much of what we are doing today will be interesting to read about in 40 years, IF print magazines still exist 40 years from now. Who ever thought that phone books would become obsolete? They were important and in every household, but now we don't see them anymore. It looks like GPS is here to stay, but is it? Is there some technology out there that we don't know about yet that would replace GPS? Only guessing!
For now, let us fly as safely and comfortably as possible with the technology that we have. And, after reading about what was available in 1946, I am very pleased to have the technology that we are using in our airplanes today.
To keep safe and up to date, I suggest coming to an ARIZONA PILOTS ASSOCIATION safety seminar, that will count for the WINGS program. They are free and are presented in locations all over the State. Check the website for a date and location near you. And “Don't forget to bring your wingman!”