Leighton Collins started Air Facts as a monthly publication with the first issue dated February, 1938. It was a small trim size, about the same as Reader’s Digest, and that first issue had but 16 pages. The tagline on the cover was “Facts-Knowledge-Safety.”
The first issues of Air Facts were written entirely by Leighton Collins and consisted mostly of accident analyses. There was no advertising.
No aviation magazine had previously put the emphasis on safety and accidents and many thought this would cause consternation in the aviation industry. When Air Facts ran a study about the safety record in Taylor and Piper Cubs, everyone thought Mr. Piper would be quite unhappy. To the contrary, he ordered an Air Facts subscription for everyone who bought a new Cub.
The magazine evolved. Advertising was added along with more pages and guest authors. It soon reached the point where the readers were producing more than half the copy in the magazine.
When war broke out, Leighton Collins was over the maximum age for the draft. He was offered a direct commission to work in military flight training but he opted to keep his magazine alive and report on private aviation throughout the war.
A number of articles were done by military pilots and Air Facts had concise coverage of the civilian contract flight training schools that were training military pilots.
Air Facts was all about using airplanes for transportation and Leighton Collins covered the United States in his Culver LFA Cadet. Wartime restrictions sometimes made things less convenient but he persisted, and flew all through the war.
Instrument flying was to be a big factor in the expanded use of airplanes for travel and Collins was a pioneer in the use of light airplanes in IFR operations.
After the war there were exciting things to write about as new civilian airplanes were developed, and then there was a big letdown when the post-war aviation boom went bust after a couple of years. When aviation started climbing again, Air Facts was still right there to cover it.
The circulation hovered around 12,000 and then slowly grew to 19,000. Despite its relatively small circulation, Air Facts was the magazine starting point for such authors as Wolfgang Langewiesche, Bob Buck, Bill Mauldin and Richard Bach.
Richard Collins joined the staff of Air Facts in 1958 and left for Flying in 1968.
After 35 years as editor and publisher, Leighton Collins sold the magazine in 1973. The new owners changed the format and style of the magazine and met with no success. The magazine was folded after a relatively short period of time.
Richard Collins revived the Air Facts name in 1990, first in connection with segments in Sporty’s training courses and later in dedicated Air Facts programs. Now it is used as the title for this online journal. Maybe we need a sign that says “Founded 1938.”
From the first issue:
FACTS — KNOWLEDGE — SAFETY
New York, February 1, 1938
These reports are made to you as a Pilot or someone otherwise seriously interested in flying, and are not intended for the consumption of the public.
Please bear in mind that our efforts do not represent an attempt to sell you something of cheap news value, but, rather, to give you a clear cut picture of how safe flying can be on the one hand, and, yet, how on the other hand it is unreasonably hazardous unless done with a high degree of caution.
The American public is not foolish. They nibbled at Airline travel slowly. When the Airlines began to show that passengers could be carried day and night with a high percentage of flights completed on schedule, and SAFER than at least automobile travel, the passenger load began to rise. Last year the 1,000,000 mark was passed.
The Airline pilots fly around 51,000 hours per pilot fatality. Remember, this is in all sorts of weather, day and night, and over all sorts of terrain. With the Rocky Mountain section out, they will show many times a better record than automobile driving.
In Private and Non-Scheduled Commercial Flying we should do even better. We have slower landing ships, fly mainly in daylight, and mainly in good weather.
Our record, in contrast, is a tragic and needlessly tragic one.
The Airlines lose ten pilots in the same time that we lose 150, with little difference in total miles flown.
What can we make of our part of the industry when an observant public says little more than “Sure enough?” to our statement that flying is safe? We have hardly improved our accident record since 1928, and everyone seems to know it except us.
Only after we hang up a sensible accident record will there be a market permitting low price, high performance airplanes.
How? The answer is simple, the means simple. All that is lacking is FACTS and a WILL on the part of our 7500 Transport Pilots, 7500 Private Pilots, and 30,000 Student License holders.
Make 1938 a BANNER year for flying, both in volume and SAFETY!