Before Oshkosh was the big show, the annual gathering in Reading, Pennsylvania, was the center of the aviation universe. In this article from the June 1968 edition of Air Facts, you’ll see what general aviation looked like during the heyday of the late 1960s. From the new airplanes to the celebrity pilots, it was a thrilling time to be a pilot.
The 1968 Reading Show
Last year we said: “It is hard to believe the Reading Show gets better every year but it does.” That still holds true. This year the show was expanded by a day, and the weather cooperated. Warm June sun blessed Reading on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, June 5th through 8th.
New airplanes? The Derringer was there. It’s a trim two-place twin with spectacular performance. Ted Smith’s Aerostar was present, and it attracted large crowds. From England, the Britten-Norman Islander, a commuter-liner, made its Reading debut, as did the turboprop Handley Page Jetstream and the twin-engine Beagle. The long and beautiful Beech 99 airliner was shown. It is already in service, and is very impressive. Aero Commander’s trim new Lark was on the line, and so was the American Aviation Yankee, and there were a lot more.
The hangar was full of exhibits. A pilot could see a full line of aeronautical products, and choose whatever he needed.
A couple of incidents did mar the show. Two airplanes, one expensive one and one very expensive one, were altered in the course of demonstration flights – while being flown like the consumer would never (hopefully) fly them. Both these airplanes came within a hair of being totally busted, right in front of the crowd. The harm such a thing would do to aviation is incalculable. Maybe in future shows things will simmer down to minimize the risk of a tragedy.
Reading Tower did a masterful job of handling traffic. There was a lot of it to handle, too. The traffic counts were: Wednesday, 1,809; Thursday, 2,225; Friday, 3,269; and Saturday, 2,068. When you consider that the traffic is almost all within about 12 hours each day, and that the airport doesn’t have parallel runways, that is really something. It would be at an annual rate many times that of Chicago O’Hare – the busiest airport.
One observation: If Reading can go from a normal airport to a high-capacity super-airport with virtually no change in facilities, why can’t other places do the same thing? Many airports have a low traffic count on weekdays, and a high traffic count on weekends. They try to do this with the same operating procedures. As a result conditions are chaotic on weekends. Maybe FAA could develop a Reading formula to be used at some general aviation airports on pretty Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.
The Reading Show. It’s something for all general aviation to be proud of. See you there next year. Some of the things observed this year follow.
For over 50 years, pilots turned to Richard L. Collins for his unique perspective on the challenges and rewards of flying light aircraft. He started his career working with his father, Leighton Collins, at the original Air Facts magazine. He then went on to work for the leading aviation magazines, including as editor of both AOPA Pilot and Flying. With over 20,000 hours of real world experience, much of it in Cessna 172s and P210s, Collins wrote about safety, weather and air traffic control from first-hand experience. He was the author of numerous books, including Logbooks, published in 2016 by Sporty’s Pilot Shop. Collins passed away in April, 2018.