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Going the distance – celebrating 40 years of Australian Aviation

written by Gerard Frawley | September 4, 2017

“Remarkably, as the first edition of AADR was going to press I really became concerned that there would be nothing to put in next year’s edition! Maybe I had already written about all there was to report on in the foreseeable future and there was nothing more to cover?”

These were the words of Australian Aviation founder Jim Thorn, writing in our September issue 10 years ago to mark the 30th anniversary of what started life as Australian Aviation and Defence Review.

“But,” Jim quickly went on to continue, “to be honest not continuing on that basis would have to be one of my dumbest moments, as there never was an issue of AA at any time that didn’t have articles dropped due lack of space.”

What proved true in the late 1970s is still proving true today. For four decades we have never lacked for topics to cover in Australian Aviation, and I think that has been central to our success.

But rather than go over the same ground as we did 10 years ago in recounting the magazine’s history and milestones, we decided instead to celebrate our 40th anniversary magazine issue with a series of articles inspired by the features in the very first Australian Aviation (okay, Australian Aviation and Defence Review).

That is our way of paying tribute to that very first edition, and to Jim’s and his then wife Margaret’s entrepreneurial spirit in risking their life savings to establish a new aviation magazine.

But it is also our way of highlighting the broad range of topics Australian Aviation has covered in our 40 years, how much aviation has changed in that time, and, perhaps surprisingly, how much remains the same as well.

That very first issue saw Jim write about the ‘Billion dollar deal’, an analysis of options to replace the RAAF’s Mirage fighter fleet, a story that we’ve used as the inspiration for Andrew McLaughlin’s ‘Replacing the replacements’ feature, which looks at how the aircraft that replaced the Mirage, the F/A-18 Hornet, is now itself being replaced. And indeed what may come after that replacement, the F-35.

It also saw legendary aviation journalist and author Stanley Brogdan write about the fleet needs of Australia’s airlines, focusing on the likelihood of widebody airliners for domestic service. That article was the inspiration for John Walton (himself well on the way to legendary status!) to analyse the fleet needs of Australia’s airlines today, which reflects on how the considerations of narrow versus widebody aircraft haven’t really changed all that much in all that time.

And then we take a look at the aviation capabilities of the Navy’s two LHD amphibious assault ships, inspired by the original magazine’s look at how to replace the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. Australia may no longer have an aircraft carrier capable of launching fixed-wing combat aircraft (or does it?) but Max Blenkin writes that the LHDs still represent a formidable aviation capability.

However, if you are interested in reading about Australian Aviation’s early days, we have published Jim’s reflections on the launch of the magazine here on our website. That is perhaps fitting, given that today this website is as important a ‘distribution channel’ for Australian Aviation as is our print magazine.

The reach of our website also highlights that Australian Aviation has evolved considerably in its 40 years, embracing changes in technology and new digital platforms to publish our content. Our first website went live sometime in the late 1990s, while since 2009 we have published news daily on our site, making it today, we feel, the leading source of aviation news in Australia. Then there is our Express weekly e-newsletter, iPad app, digital print replica magazine and our strong social media presences on Facebook and Twitter.

If there is one thing that the last 40 years have shown, whether in aviation or media, it is that change and evolution are constant. That has certainly given us plenty to write about, and plenty of ways to share that written word, not to mention some superb aviation photography!

It’s great fun, and a great privilege, to sit in this chair stewarding the production of Australian Aviation stories and content, whether that is for print or online (and even writing the odd story myself!).

So thank you, our readers, for being with us on our 40-year long-haul!

Gerard Frawley’s reflections on the 40th anniversary of Australian Aviation first appeared as his Notam editorial column in the September 2017 issue of the magazine.

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Comments (2)

  • Congratulations! Fantastic achievement for a fantastic magazine!

  • Norman Lee


    I really enjoyed my ten years or so of writing for the magazine. Happy days! getting to fly other people’s aircraft and being paid for it. Norman Lee, long time retired naval aviator.

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