For 50 years—or 600 issues if you measure time as magazine publishers do—this publication has chronicled general aviation—the industry, the events, the people, the airplanes. An outgrowth of an older aviation magazine, this one now dominates GA, thanks to the success of AOPA.
We have a few copies of the March 1958 issue here at the office. We treat them with reverence, carrying them carefully with two hands—often in plastic sleeves. Many of us on staff weren’t even born when Vol. 1, No. 1 hit the mailboxes of America’s GA pilots, so that first issue and the times that it represents are a real curiosity to us. More, um, senior members of the staff, get a nostalgic gleam in their eyes when they thumb through the pages. To a person, we’re all a bit mesmerized by that now-yellowed magazine with the grainy picture of the Cessna 182 on the cover. A print of the cover is framed in our office lobby—a favorite stopping point for the many pilots who tour the AOPA headquarters every year.
There are many ways to celebrate such an anniversary. It’s a time to examine our heritage and to understand how far GA has come. In the following pages, we explore what happened to some of the folks who were a part of that first issue. Did Phil Calder get the flying job he sought in the first issue’s “Classified” section? See “ Pilots,” on page 162. How many more fly-out lunches did those Abilene, Texas, lady pilots manage to pull off? See page 106. Whatever happened to Nancy Narco and the Hertz rent-a-plane concept? See page 121. Who’s this Krick character and how could he forecast IFR weather months in advance? See page 98.
Learn about the airplanes of the time and how the fleet was different than today—including the Skylane that graced our cover. It’s still flying in Idaho. See page 96. “Never Again” is still the most popular page in the magazine. Read the harrowing tale that launched the series. See page 152.
Really want to compare the past to the present? Go to AOPA Online where we have posted both the original March 1958 issue and this one— in a digital format that allows you to turn the pages and thumb through the issue just as you might have back in 1958 in front of the Philco while watching The Milton Berle Show.
Most important, join us again next month as we launch into our second half century with an all-new issue.