Flying - - DEPARTMENTS - By Stephen Pope

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.

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