Stephen Pope - The Airborne Author

Stephen Pope lives and breathes aviation — in every facet of his life, flying seems to sneak its way to the forefront. Editor-in-Chief of Flying Magazine and a commercial multi-engine, seaplane and instrument-rated pilot, Stephen certainly knows a thing or two about the world of aviation.

Stephen has a long line of history in aviation. He learned to fly at 15 in a Piper Cub at Trinca Airport, a small grass strip in northern New Jersey. While still in high school Stephen worked as a line boy at the 60th Street Heliport in New York City and for First Aviation, an FBO at New Jersey's Teterboro Airport.

After soloing at 16, earning his private pilot's license at 17 and gaining his instrument rating a year later, Stephen then chose to broaden his horizons and study to become a journalist.

Now the Editor-in-Chief at Flying Magazine, Stephen Pope’s journalism career has seen him land in some unlikely situations!

How did you get involved in aviation so young?

I grew up in an aviation family and always wanted to become a pilot. My father, at 81 years old, is the oldest medevac helicopter pilot in the world.

I started taking flying lessons at a small grass strip near my home in New Jersey in a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub at age 15, soloed at 16 and earned my private pilot license at 17.

Why did journalism excite you?

When I was deciding where to go to college, my father suggested I go to school for something outside of aviation so that in a down economy I would have something to fall back on should I lose my job as a pilot. I grew up reading Flying magazine and other aviation publications. They were how I touched aviation as a boy dreaming about nothing else. I loved to write and thought working for an aviation magazine would be an exciting career path.

I enrolled at the University of Maryland as a journalism major, where I received my degree and completed an editorial internship with AOPA Pilot magazine.

After graduating, I joined the editorial staff of Aviation International News, a business aviation trade magazine. During this time, I moved up the ranks to become Senior Editor directing avionics and technology coverage, Editor-in-Chief of Convention Publications and, in my last role with the company, Editor-in-Chief of Business Jet Traveler magazine. I then joined the staff of Flying in 2010.

What opportunities has being a journalist in this space given you, that general aviation flying may not have?

I have been able to experience so many things that I could never have imagined. I have flown scores of amazing aeroplanes, from jets and turboprops to warbirds and aerobatic planes and most of the newest general aviation aeroplanes to come along in the last several years. I have travelled around the world to cover aviation stories, and have been lucky to experience so many behind-the-scenes stories that I never thought would be possible.

The behind-the-scenes stories I get to experience are flying new aeroplanes just coming to the market before almost anybody but the manufacturer's test pilots and the FAA has experienced them and getting the scoop on new aviation products and services before the general public.

What is your area of expertise?

My area of expertise in aviation journalism is really technology and avionics. I grew up as kind of a computer person, and have always been drawn to the latest cockpit technology that is making aviation more efficient and safer. My real attraction to avionics technology is the fact this is what the pilot touches on every flight, which is very important to me.

Throughout your career, what have been the most noticeable developments?

Without a doubt, in journalism, the shift to digital platforms has been transformative. From the web to tablets to native video and the trend toward online advertising, the internet has fundamentally changed how aviation journalists do their job. Rather than lament the decline of print, I embrace online publishing as a place where journalists can tell stories through a broad mix of media including compelling text, stunning photography, arresting video and, in the future, possibly even immersive virtual reality that takes our audience into the cockpit.

What area are you following most closely today and going forward?

Apart from avionics developments, engine technology drives so much in aviation. The trend toward diesel engines in general aviation aeroplanes is worth watching closely, as are developments in electric and hybrid power plants, which hold the potential of completely transforming aviation as we know it, especially if power advances are coupled with a move to full automation for a new type of urban mobility. The changes we have seen in aviation in the last 20 years have been incredible, but I truly believe they will pale when compared to the developments we will witness in the next 20 years.


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