When I took the call a few days ago that the printer had moved up the next issue of FLYING to go on press last week, I was asked, “Do you want to be there?”
Are you kidding?
I’m a pilot—and a big geek when it comes to the manufacturing of aircraft. I love visiting aerospace OEMs, and walking the plant floor, watching how those marvelous flying machines come together from cartons and stacks of parts and raw materials.
I’m also a writer, a bookworm, and a bonafide magazine nut. Just ask anyone who has ever lived with me—starting with my parents, then my college roommates, and now my husband—about the ongoing management of the copious journals that flow through our living space.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shepherd a new edition of a print publication through its renaissance, the likes of which I may never see again.
And so, to watch it go “on press” gave me a sensation not unlike barreling down the runway, heading for the sky—for real.
What Has Gone Into This Moment
We selected Mittera, a well-established nationwide printing and fulfillment company based in the Midwest, for their excellence in producing high-end publications similar to what we had in mind for the future of FLYING.
I’d not yet met most of the Mittera team in person when we shipped the last files to the folks there a few weeks ago, but they served up a warm welcome on my visit even though it was Wisconsin in January.
There’s a reason EAA hosts AirVenture in July.
In any event, Mittera runs a 24-7 operation. Contrary to the fact that you’re reading these words on our digital channel, the demand for print continues—as evidenced by its importance to FLYING’s readers—and the three shifts the plant keeps busy year-round.
How It Works
If printing a magazine simply involved pushing a button to send a pdf to a printer, then we could do this job at the local FedEx Office, but there’s a lot more to getting everything right than that. Like the orchestration of an instrument approach, the proper set-up gets you a long way—and there are small adjustments to make throughout the approach. Communication is key.
So is dealing with folks who care about their business deeply. You could tell the press operators, supervisors, agents, and managers alike were excited to produce FLYING—of course, we’re biased, but the content is beautiful, engaging, and downright fun to see roll through the press.
We spent time tweaking colors—through minute adjustments in the flow of ink, which ports through tubes Willy-Wonka-style into the presses, its CMYK values registering via coded color bars on the edges of the paper rolls.
It was like following a whole different kind of magenta line.
First to go through were the cover forms—a form being the broad sheet of paper holding four pages—because they are printed on much heavier stock than the inner pages of the magazine.
I held my breath a bit as Roger, the press supervisor, unrolled the first proof from the press. It was stunning to see it come to life.
Next, the text forms began moving through, drawn from the plates that hung from racks in a ready room next to spare vats of ink. The speed at which those pages ran through the rollers was mind-boggling—but it takes that kind of speed to print a large job like FLYING’s run.
Once all the forms are printed, cut, and collated, they go through bindery, poly-wrapping, and paletting before they head out of the door.
I can’t wait for you to see it—perfectly bound and in your mailbox soon.