Sadly today, when the post arrived, it contained the last ever edition of Propliner magazine – number 141.
The magazine started in January 1979 as the dreamchild of Stephen Piercey, when the skies were still full of Propliners; and it continued pretty much every quarter from that time until this final edition. There was a years break following edition 21, after Stephen was killed in a mid-air collision in May 1984. The magazine continued on under Tony Merton-Jones as editor when it started up again. Tony was one of the original founders, along with John Roach, Ian MacFarlane, Tony Eastwood, Colin Ballantine and others.
The first edition of Propliner, in it’s then blue cover. All images at that time were black and white – though due to the nature of the articles many of the photos up until the last edition were in b & w. There were plenty of colour photos too.
The quality of articles, the quality of photographs; and the sheer in-depth research that took place for each quarterly was second to none. The paper quality alone was fantastic, it’s more like a thin cardboard than paper; and the editing was brilliant. I don’t recall ever receiving a duff edition with a blurred photo (from printing) or poor text quality – something that can’t be said for many magazines these days. It started off in black and white, but moved to colour after edition 20.
It was really a non-profit magazine, peaking at 4,250 copies in the mid 90’s. All contributors, including myself in its latter years, never expected a penny for the articles and photographs that we sent in. We were just happy to see the magazine continuing; and happy to read the articles.
And what articles they were.
From stories about Indian Navy Constellations (still in-service in 1983) to the history of BOAC flights after the war. Reading some of the historic articles, it was very easy to picture the moving map with the aircraft in Indiana Jones – the articles gave you that sense of feeling. The research for some of the articles took months, if not years, to be carried out.
Edition 21 was the first in colour, and Stephen’s last. It contained his article on the Indian Navy/Air Force Constellations; one that took three years to organise. By that stage only one remained in service, but the Indian Navy still organised a special flight in it for Steve – for a £9 admin fee
Of course, the articles weren’t all about the historic flights and airlines; Propliners were still in use after all. These days everyone knows about Buffalo Airways thanks to TV shows such as Ice Pilots, but it was really Propliner that opened our eyes to these types of operations. They were almost as mystical as the stories from the past. And I guess it’s why Ice Pilots was such a popular TV programme. There’s just something about the old, smoky aircraft that draws us to them.
In the latter years there were articles to tempt you to go to Russia and fly on some of the propliners still in use there today, thanks to the pen of Steve Kinder and the magical (if not sometimes maniacal) tours he wrote about. And the stories of deepest Canada and the aircraft that still fly there are always a temptation to go to see, thanks to the the writings of the magazines contributors.
Just one of my images featured in Propliner
I’m proud to say I have every edition of Propliner. I wasn’t an early subscriber, but when I discovered the magazine I made it my mission to get every one of them. And I was able to do so, though it wasn’t easy. I can see the magazines becoming collectors items in the future; the early “blue” editions (numbers 1-20) already are. My copies never really leave the house, but if they do I have kept hold of a couple of the cardboard envelopes each quarterly came in to protect them in transit.
I for one will miss Propliner. Like the aircraft it wrote about it has become the victim of the modern day – with the cost of printing, with the cost of postage, with the seemingly poor attitude of some trade customers and their lack of payments – and unfortunately, the cost of falling subscriber numbers as those of us that are interested in these aircraft, ourselves become vintage and go to the scrapyard. I wonder what the kids of today, those who are interested in aircraft, will have to read about in 36 years time – Airbus and Boeing (yawn).
Back issues of Propliner are still available from the Propliner website but if that doesn’t work then fill out the form below and I’ll happily forward on any enquiry to Tony Merton-Jones. You never know, if there’s a lot of interest, it may just bounce back again.