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Trade-A-Plane marks transitionTrade-A-Plane marks transition

Family business remains in family handsFamily business remains in family hands

Cosby Stone has decided to retire after 28 years as chief executive of the publishing company his grandfather launched in 1937 and built into one of aviation’s most recognizable brands. For nearly eight decades, Trade-A-Plane has been a go-to resource for pilots seeking affordable airplanes, hard-to-find parts, and more.
Cosby Stone, the CEO of TAP Publishing and grandson of Trade-A-Plane founder Cosby Harrison, has announced his retirement. Photo courtesy of TAP Publishing.

Trade-A-Plane began on a single printed page, the brainchild of Cosby Harrison, who crashed his airplane in 1935. Harrison escaped the foul-weather crash without injury, but the 1929 Laird Swallow he had borrowed $995 to buy was wrecked. Determined to repair the airplane but hard-pressed to find parts, Harrison turned misfortune into opportunity, launching Trade-A-Plane from his kitchen table. From the first issue mailed to 9,000 pilots to the present-day, Trade-A-Plane has remained a go-to source for anyone seeking aircraft, parts, products, real estate listings, and more. Stone, representing the third generation of family ownership, has overseen a modernization and expansion of the TAP Publishing Co.’s digital presence, while maintaining the family’s ownership and an impressive record of employee loyalty—evidenced by senior staff members who have been with the company for decades.

"After serving as TAPPCO's CEO for 28 years, it's time for a change in role for me,” Stone said in a news release. “I will still be very involved in the company as an owner, as a board member and, at least for this next year, as Board Chairman.”

When Stone took over as CEO, the company had a staff of about 45. Today, the company has 170 employees working across eight business units. The iconic catalog of aircraft and parts remains in print, but Trade-A-Plane is very much in the digital age as well.

“We are no longer a publishing company in the traditional sense, but a diversified information services company," Stone noted.

Stone will be succeeded by his brother, Steve Stone, the longtime COO and now the interim CEO. Adam Strachn, who serves as the company legal counsel and was hired in 2014 as human resources director, has been designated to take the CEO post in the future.

The company has been based in Crossville, Tennessee, throughout its history. TAP Publishing has expanded beyond aviation over the years, publishing classifieds for the construction and petroleum industries as well as trucking. The company also has operated a commercial printing business since 1983, and recently purchased SignSmith, a commercial sign business based in Crossville.

"I cannot begin to thank all the people who have helped me along my journey as CEO,” Stone said in the press release. “There are so many wonderful customers, suppliers, colleagues and coworkers who have brightened my path. I am ever so grateful for the friendships, challenges and opportunities of these years.”

Stone’s departure follows the naming of longtime staffer Rachel Hill, who joined Trade-A-Plane in 1990, as publisher of the flagship publication. Trade-A-Plane remains the largest aviation shopping resource of its kind, circulating nearly 2 million copies annually in the United States and more than 130 other countries.

AOPA file photo.
Topics: Aviation Industry

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