About Our Name

Magazines with "sportsman pilot" in their titles have been published since the late 1920s, but times and circumstances change, and magazines have to change with them. The current Sportsman Pilot chronicles the exploits of today's sportsman pilots... you and I.


"Sportsman Pilot" is not a recent title in the annals of aviation publishing. In the late 1920s a magazine called "Yachting and Sportsman Pilot" was created in New York City, and, as the name implies, was devoted mainly to the activities of wealthy Long Island yachtsmen and pilots who could afford to fly purely for pleasure rather than business. Mirroring the relatively small size of its clientele, the circulation of "Yachting and Sportsman Pilot" was quite small, and, as a result, those early issues are quite rare today.

Following the stock market crash in October, 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression of the 1930s, thejuly 1940 cover nature of society dramatically changed, and so did "Yachting and Sportsman Pilot." As great fortunes based on stock market speculation vanished overnight, the first to go were luxuries such as the magnificent ocean-going yachts that had been featured in the magazine. The result was that "Yachting" was dropped from the title and the publication became a strictly aviation magazine renamed "The Sportsman Pilot."

Despite the devastating effects of the Depression on all phases of aviation... except the budding airlines, which were heavily subsidized by the government... flying was still such an awe-inspiring activity in the minds of the general public that it remained popular even in the worst of economic times. "The Sportsman Pilot" thus gradually expanded its editorial focus from the rich and famous to also include those of less affluence who were gaining entrance to aviation via the little low-powered Aeroncas, Cubs, and other "flying flivvers" that were being introduced in the early 1930s. By the time World War II began, "The Sportsman Pilot" was a full-fledged general interest aviation magazine with editorial content very similar to that of all the other newstand publications of the time.

With the coming of World War II and the virtual halt of general aviation activity, especially along the nation's coasts, "The Sportsman Pilot" struggled along trying to feature military aviation activity, but, finally, in the fall of 1943 the plug was pulled and the magazine ceased publication. During its short run of about 14 years, the magazine never achieved a wide circulation. It was, however, always highly prized for its large format (about the size of the old Life magazines), its beautiful black and white photography, and for its thoughtful commentary on the aviation issues of its time. One of its distinguished writers, Franklin T. Kurt, essentially invented the flight report article in the mid-1930s.

March 1940 coverBack issues from the 1930s and early 1940s eventually became collector's items, and I was one of the collectors. Although never able to locate many of the very early issues, I was eventually able to purchase all of them from about 1934 onward, and they remain the most highly prized of all my aviation books and periodicals. I have found them to be the best sources for information on such activities of the 1930s as the government's so-called "$700 Airplane Competition", the great Gulf Oil-sponsored light-plane cruises to the Miami Air Maneuvers, and the start-up of the Civilian Pilot Training Program- and have used that information to write articles on those subjects in our own "Sportsman Pilot" magazine.

Our magazine came into being in 1981. In trying to come up with an appropriate title, I kept coming back to "The Sportsman Pilot", but I wasn't sure whether the name was still protected by copyrights. Finally, Golda and I journeyed to Washington, DC and visited the Library of Congress where I looked up the title and found that the copyrights had long since been allowed to expire. The name, I was assured by the Library of Congress, was mine to use when our first issue appeared in May of 1981. We did choose to drop the "The" and simply use "Sportsman Pilot", but I was proud to now own the title of my all-time favorite golden age aviation magazine.

the sportsman test pilot

Our Sportsman Pilot was never intended to be a latter-day imitation of the original "The Sportsman Pilot." World War II, the coming of the atomic, jet, and space ages, the cold war, and everything else that transpired between 1943 and 1981 resulted in a world vastly different from that of the 1930s. The real miracle of that span of time was the booming US economy that created a huge middle class financially capable of owning and flying their own aircraft. By 1981 a "sportsman pilot", one who flew simply for the sheer love of it, was no longer limited to the ranks of the very wealthy. By that time a vast pool of affordable used light-planes had accumulated- something no other nation enjoys, even today- and the homebuilt aircraft hobby fostered by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) had matured to the point that the "sportsman pilot" could be... you and me!

july 1940 rear cover

Our Sportsman Pilot, therefore, is about the men and women of today who love to fly, who love to construct homebuilt aircraft, restore vintage aircraft, and take part in all sorts of activity relating to those aircraft... or just enjoy reading about those who do. The emphasis, more than in any other aviation magazine, is on the word "pilot" in our title. As much as we love our aircraft, the real phenomenons of aviation are the men and women involved. What motivates people to spend as much as 10 or 12 years of their lives building or restoring an airplane in their garage or basement? What element of character or sheer will does a person who has never so much as hammered together a packing crate somehow bring to bear on his or her first project... and often come up with a grand champion on the first try? Every article in Sportsman Pilot tries to answer such questions by including perceptive biographical information about the person or persons behind the aircraft. There is always an abundance of technical stuff and historical background, of course, but it's all you ordinary people who do extraordinary things who are the primary focus of Sportsman PILOT.

We have retained some of the features of "The Sportsman Pilot." We still use only black and white photos in an effort to retain a '30s look, and we try to provide a broad historical perspective in all our articles, but, otherwise, we're starting into a new century now, and our concentration is on "what's happening now" in the wonderful world of sport/general aviation. We think you will enjoy it.

                                                                                                         -Jack Cox, Editor/Publisher