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In the last quarter of the 20th century, the aerospace industry became increasingly internationalised (witness the creation of EADS out of the bulk of the industry in Germany, France and Spain), and its products increasingly designed electronically and made of exotic new materials - the classic example being the glassfibre reinforced plastic structure of the Beech Starship 2000. And what was true of the industry became true of Flight International itself.

I joined Flight as editor at the end of 1988, replacing David Mason. Making a magazine truly international in an age of ever-faster-moving information involved much more than just appointing a few foreign correspondents. The whole heart of the magazine and its approach to news and information had to reflect the international nature of the industry. Yes, our headquarters was in the UK, and it stuck with British English as its language, but most copy was written by staff and correspondents based in places like Washington, Singapore, Munich, Paris, Newport Beach, Moscow, Brussels - and even Cairns in Australia.

Even more importantly, the content was changing, with that network of writers breaking news stories and delivering scoops every week - stories which were selected on their international importance lateand merit, and written to be relevant to a worldwide audience. The reader was no longer assumed to be British by default - the question to be answered was: "What does this mean to the man in Ulan Bator?" In some weeks, that reader might search in vain for the dateline "London" in the headline news pages, and "Comment" was just as likely to address the international implications of airport developments in Hong Kong or military procurement decisions in the USA as it was airliner certification arguments in the European Union.

All of this was made possible - as in the industry itself - by the electronic revolution. At the end of the 1980s, producing a page on Flight involved hand-written copy, manual typewriters, faxes, page layouts pasted down from galley proofs, and numerous couriers to move proofs and photographs etc between editorial offices and printers. Within the decade, a journalist anywhere in the world could type and edit copy straight into an electronic page template. From taking a week or more from raw copy to finished page, the process could be condensed into a couple of hours.

That page was very different, too. The new approach saw the previous circulation mix of two-thirds UK/one-third international changing to the exact opposite. At the same time, a guarantee that the magazine would reach the reader within the week of publication forced a move to air mail or air freight for all copies going outside the UK and near Europe. So Flight International's page size was trimmed and paper weight reduced to make air freight economic.

International attitudes to international issues were, of course, in keeping with the times. The end of the Cold War and the opening-up of eastern Europe and the CIS presented often unexpected opportunities. Even a few years earlier, the thought that the test pilot's test pilot, John Farley, would be evaluating the aerodynamic performance of the MiG-29 in a full flight test for Flight International would have seemed as preposterous as our drawing a Rolls-Royce RB211-powered Tupolev airliner or reporting Aeroflot's purchase of Boeings.

Flight's renowned cutaway drawings also had to change and develop as its band of full-time staff artists turned these intricate black-and-white pencil-and-ink renderings into full-colour technical art of an unprecedented standard, thanks to the industry's wholesale adoption of computer-aided design.

But the sheer scale of the information becoming available, the development of entirely new markets, and the insatiable demands of the growing international audience meant that no one magazine - no matter how good it was - could satisfy all the needs of the time. The peculiar needs of airline management were met first, with the launch of Flight's monthly sister title Airline Business, followed by newsletters covering in-flight entertainment and navigation. International air show audiences, long served by conventionally produced, largely pre-written papers, suddenly found themselves targeted by the truly daily, written-on-the-spot tabloid newspaper Flight Daily News, which set a whole new standard for instant reporting. And, at those international air shows, Flight was now celebrating the success of the industry with its own unique brand of awards.

Even that was not enough, however, and by the mid-1990s there was the group's first delve into online news and information with Air Transport Intelligence - a powerful tool combining instant news from around the world with massive databases of market and technical data. Backed by the individual magazines' own websites, ATI proved there was a global market for premium-price online information.

In an extraordinary 15 years, a very British "World's First Aeronautical Weekly" had, by the efforts and vision of an equally extraordinary band of journalists and commercial staff, been transformed into "The International Aerospace News Weekly".

Continue reading the history of Flight Magazine

Flight magazine - the early years
Max Kingsley-Jones describes Flight Magazine's humble birth

Flight magazine in the 80s and 90s
Allan Winn join Flight International as Editor in late 1988. 1998 he was promoted to editor-in-chief. He later served as publisher. He describes Flight International during this period

The future for Flight International
The launch of flightglobal.com has taken the wider Flight brand to a much bigger online audience

Flight magazine covers strap

Source: Flight International