WHAT DICK COLLINS MEANT TO FLYING MAGAZINE
What Dick Collins meant to Flying magazine
Charles Lindbergh. William Ziff. Richard Collins. Whenever I think of Flying magazine, these three names spring to mind first.
The excitement that enthralled the world after Lindbergh’s solo New York to Paris flight in May 1927 compelled a young Bill Ziff Sr. to found a monthly journal devoted to personal flying, published for the first time in August of that year. The pilot in the leather flying helmet you see at the top left corner of this page is indeed the Lone Eagle, created as an homage from a photograph taken at the Ryan Aircraft factory in San Diego during construction of
The Spirit of St. Louis in the spring of 1927.
Without Lindbergh and Ziff, this magazine, esteemed in the aviation publishing world, wouldn’t exist. Without Dick Collins, Flying wouldn’t be esteemed quite so highly.
Dick helped transform Flying during general aviation’s ascension in the 1960s and 1970s, right into the 1980s and nearly into the new millennium as the very nature of personal aviation and print publishing was changing. Many people, of course, deserve credit for making Flying special — from writers and photographers to publishers and editors and the folks who help keep the lights on by selling ads — but none more so than Dick Collins.
We were sadly reminded of Dick’s lasting impact with his passing on April 29 at his home in suburban Maryland at the age of 84. He was still writing stories right up until his death, remarkable considering that he authored his first aviation article 71 years ago, for his father Leighton Collins’ magazine Air Facts, when he was just 13 years old.
Dick came to Flying in 1968, rising to become the magazine’s 10th editor-in-chief in 1977. Known for his plain-spoken style and tales of flying his beloved Cessna P210 in and around all kinds of weather, he believed strongly in the potential of general aviation for business travel — yet he never shied away from telling it straight, admonishing his readers that traversing the country in a light airplane could be risky business.
Some blame Dick for single-handedly killing the market for light twins as he warned readers about the dangers of loss of control in a twin after an engine failure while railing against the complexity of that extra engine, which offered twice the chance for failure and burned twice the fuel. It’s funny, these were Lindbergh’s same reasons for choosing to cross the Atlantic in a single while his better-financed competitors were all planning journeys in multiengine airplanes. Great aviation minds think alike.
I never worked with Dick, but many of the careers he helped launch or nurtured in aviation journalism are friends and former colleagues, who rightfully revere him as a legend in the industry. Like many of you, I feel I know him from reading his columns and articles and watching his educational videos through the years. I started reading
Flying as a young boy in the 1970s. The magazine was my primary aviation touchpoint, and editor-in-chief was a job I aspired to as a kid who devoured every word.
Today, a young person’s introduction to aviation is just as likely to be a website as a dog-eared copy of Flying passed on by a relative or mentor. For the current editorial staff of Flying, it’s our job to manage this transition. But just as Lindbergh foresaw the transformation of aviation from radial engines to transoceanic air travel, and Ziff saw the early potential of mass market publishing, Dick led the charge from print to online journalism, working in his final years as one of the finest aviation bloggers on the planet.
Thank you, Dick, for all you gave us. Our rapidly changing world is in your debt.