Taking Off in Public: The Magic of the Cover

The cover of the August 2019 edition was shot by aviation photography veteran Paul Bowen. FLYING a

Editor’s Note: “Taking Off in Public” is a new digital series written by Craig Fuller, the new owner of FLYING. In this series, Fuller will provide insight into his plans for Flying and a first-hand look at how Flying is being built for the next generation.

Magazine covers have so much meaning.

It’s the most important real estate in publishing, after all. There’s a finite amount of space on a cover, you can’t increase the volume, and when the magazine is sold through newsstands, it can mean the difference between a hit or disaster for an issue. That is why publishers and editors spend so much energy thinking through covers.

For FLYING, we’ve designed more than a thousand covers in our history. We’ve been publishing for more than 94 years, starting just 24 years after the Wright Brothers took their first powered flight. While the magazine missed the very first era of aviation, it has chronicled the explosion and impact of the industry throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.

A few weeks ago, I started posting some of the covers on social media. It wasn’t really something I had planned to do, just something that I spontaneously did. The move built upon the historic covers we have posted over the past few years to mark the current month’s issue, plus throwbacks to 25, 50, and 75 years ago throughout each month.

The covers we’re posting now have gained a lot of traction and followers have responded. In fact, a handful of covers have become some of our most engaged posts.

In doing the posts, I’ve been able to follow the evolution of technology, regulation, culture, and leadership throughout the past 94 years. In many ways, FLYING is like a virtual aerospace museum. After all, it was around for almost 50 years before the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum opened in Washington, D.C.

The March 1931 cover of what was then known as Popular Aviation. FLYING archives

My Trip Through the Decades

While my journey into the FLYING archives is new, I’ve made a few observations.

In the early days, the magazine was called Popular Aviation. This was the brand for the first two years. It then became Aeronautics. This brand was phased out after 18 months when it reverted back to Popular Aviation.

It then became Flying and Popular Aviation for a decade until 1942, where it became FLYING and has remained so ever since.

The early editions included artwork on the front, designed by human artists. Photography was introduced in the ‘40s, around the end of World War II. In the early days, military aircraft dominated the covers. In the past decade, military aircraft have been pretty rare on the covers of FLYING.

Some of the headlines also caught my attention, mostly because of how much thinking and society has evolved since:

“Will pilots be grounded at 60?”

“Air to Compete Against Railways?”

“Does Flying hurt virality?”

There have also been some beautiful airplanes. You can follow the FLYING magazine cover archive on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

What are your favorites?

What has your experience been with FLYING? I would love to hear from you. You can find me @freightalley on Twitter.

A pilot for more than three decades, Craig Fuller is owner and CEO of FLYING parent company Firecrown Media.

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