Monday, October 17, 2011

The direction of EAA


A short-lived thread at Van's Air Force raised the question of what's happening to EAA's Sport Aviation. The author of the thread -- I think it was the very talented Bill Repucci -- said it's becoming too much like Flying Magazine, not surprising since J. Mac McClellan, who was the editor of Flying, is now the editor of Sport Aviation magazine.

I feel like I’m about to go through a divorce

There were early signs, that’s for sure. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I felt like my needs were no longer being met. Then I started looking elsewhere.

However, I’m still not ready to call it quits and hope it isn’t over, maybe things can turn around.

Yep, when the October issue of Sport Aviation arrived I flipped through the pages and couldn’t bring myself to read it. Yet, when the latest KitPlanes arrived, I read it from cover to cover that evening.

While I like the T-6 that was on the cover of Sport Aviation and have some time in an SNJ, the cover article was all about Mac getting checked out in the plane, not so much about the plane or its history. Then there was the story about how the avionics in the Cirrus helps keep pilots out of trouble. There is an article about how every Bonanza owner must maintain / upgrade their airplane because, after all, it is a Beechcraft. Next up for me were the articles on retired airline pilots, pilot attitudes, and a story from Jeff Skiles about flying an airliner on News Eve. The list goes on but you get the idea. At least they still list have the completions section

Sport Aviation had two stories on aircraft restorations, one a pre-war Stearman mail plane and the other a Baby Ace; but not one story about a builder or their aircraft.

This morning I called the EAA and asked them if they had a magazine for home builders and the nice lady on the other end of the phone said they did not, Sport Aviation was it. What a bummer as that is no longer a magazine that represents my interests in aviation.

I’m really conflicted. I like the idea of the EXPERIMENTAL Aircraft Association but it seems they have taken the Experimental part out and have turned it into the “Aircraft Association”. While I used to be very proud of my low EAA membership number and association with the organization, I’m seriously thinking about letting my membership expire.

In addition, what is troubling is the number of people who have contacted me who feel the same way and have asked about setting up a new organization to represent the interests of the builders.

The thread, for reasons not specified, was deleted by one of the moderators there (it's a whole 'nother topic but more and more threads are being deleted there because of an opinion that runs counter to a nameless moderator, rather than a violation of the terms of service). I was in the middle of typing a response to it when the thread disappeared, so I'm putting it here (A thread about the thread was also deleted).

Feel free to comment. I won't delete them:
I used to save my Sport Aviations, now I just read and toss 'em.

Coincidentally, yesterday I grabbed a stack of unread mags from the den and leafed through them as I watched the Patriots game.

I ripped out a couple of Sport Aviation articles -- stuff Dick Kohler wrote, for example, and tossed it. I also read Lauren Paine Jr.'s article about the old guys (I love his work but this article was a rehash of previous work, I'm afraid), and I read Lane Wallace's column. I love her work but I'm starting to wonder how many articles you can get out of one trip East with one (sort of) stepchild.

I didn't read Mac's stuff; I didn't read his stuff with Flying. I leafed through the pictures of the T6 and breezed through some of the copy. There's a T-6 or two on my field and when they rumbled past and fly over, I always stop what I'm doing and go watch them. They provide some motivation and inspiration. OK, it's not homebuilding, but there's a relationship between homebuilding and the T-6, at least in my case. That's the thing with aviation; it's incestuous.

But to be fair, I leafed pretty quickly through Kitplanes, too. I read Stein's stuff and I read your articles, Bill, which were fabulous; I was unaware of your incident.

I didn't read Jim Weir's stuff because it had a picture of a circuit diagram which made those little squares you scan with your smartphone look like the wide open spaces. And I read the article on stall/spins.

I still think Sport Aviation has the right idea with the "how to" articles -- short as they are -- pushed toward he back of the mag. And -- no offense at all to either you or Paul dye -- but I think Kitplanes suffers from getting its content from too few writers.

What content should be in there specifically? I don't know, and neither do many other people. That's the nature of these things; we know what we don't want, we know -- philosophically -- what we do want, but getting to particulars is problematic.

EAA is in a major push right now to redefine itself. It's suffering what all "non profits" suffer from. It can no longer sustain the growth required by the core audience with which it started. That's just the way it goes. It clearly sees itself as the home for all things flying (little "F") and that's its future. I get that.

It's also trying to compete in a dying medium: magazines. Anything you want about building, you can already find online. There are numerous sources of good writing and good blogs.

There was this story the other day about a 3 year old who picked up a magazine and said, "something's wrong with the iPad." I think the lesson of that is probably not lost on Mac and EAA.

update 9:19 a.m. 10/18 -- cooler heads have prevailed (i.e. Doug has come back from lunch) and the thread has been reopened.

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