Editor’s Notebook

By Staff Writer | June 1, 2015
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James T. McKenna

More than 25 years ago, I had just begun to write for another very prestigious aviation magazine. It was thrilling. That publication, like this one, was known worldwide. Its readers, like ours, were most loyal and (as a consequence) expected excellence in its pages. I learned that fact after writing a story about the redevelopment of New York’s JFK Airport. I had just gotten my big break, moving from editing writers’ stories to writing myself. I’d been warned that this would never happen, that the magazine didn’t promote copy editors to writers. But there I was, pecking away at a story that included this tidbit: the changes would give JFK the tallest control tower in North America.I’ll be honest. I strutted a bit after I saw my first byline in those pages. That is, until my boss came in and handed me a letter. “You’re wrong,” it essentially said. “JFK will not have the highest tower.” That title belonged to Vancouver Harbour Tower and Water Airport in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the letter writer worked. The tower for that seaplane base/heliport sat atop a 30-story office building, at a perch of nearly 466 feet. Not only was it the tallest control tower in North America, the letter writer claimed, it was the tallest in the world. “JFK may have the tallest freestanding tower,” he wrote, “but not the tallest.” My boss glowered. “Two lessons here. Be precise. And if you can’t be precise, avoid superlatives. Don’t say ‘first,’ fastest’ or”—he paused—“‘highest’ unless you know for sure. Because a reader will know, and will tell you.”That lesson came to mind as I reviewed the Editor’s Notebook I penned back in October 2008. “This is the last editorial I’ll write for Rotor & Wing,” I wrote than, repeating history rather than heeding it. By the time that editorial appeared, I was in Fort Worth, at work in Bell Helicopter’s communications department. Over the next several years, I did communications work for the Aerospace Industries Association, Helicopter Association International and AHS International and numerous private businesses.So why, you might ask, did I decide to return, to become the “once and future” editor-in-chief? Over the course of 48 years, this magazine has established a legacy of delivering sound information that helps helicopter operators succeed in their missions, whether they be commercial, military or public service. I saw that clearly in my years here. After I left, I saw firsthand the need of businesses for good, sound information on markets, competitors and customers. I also saw that R&W was slipping in its provision of such information, perhaps ceding its position as the global resource for rotorcraft management. That was a sad trend.I was drawn back here by commitment—the commitment I saw in the magazine’s parent company, Access Intelligence, to sustain and strengthen this magazine’s legacy. Equally, I was drawn by the commitment—and the passion—of our publisher, Randy Jones, to do just that. I wanted to join in the restoration.Randy told you last month that changes were in store. Those changes begin with me and with this issue. We are again Rotor & Wing International, a name we grew into in the past and one that reflects our scope and our mission. That mission is to be the one-stop business-intelligence resource for those charged with making key decisions within rotorcraft operations worldwide. We will draw on and build on our legacy. In these pages—newly designed to reflect the changes here and ahead—we fill you in this month on an industry initiative to bring single-engine IFR helicopters back to the market. In doing so, we reach back to the promise of IFR—outlined as it was in these pages more than 40 years ago—and explain why it remains unfulfilled. We brief you on a fledgling international effort to streamline certification rules and clear the path for innovation and enhanced safety. This month’s coverage outlines trends that may change your business in the years ahead. Every month to come, we aim to deliver unique and exclusive insight into the aircraft, product, technological, regulatory, safety and maintenance issues that impact your operations. We are committed to providing you with the competitive edge to operate more efficiently, more profitably and more successfully. I trust you’ll let me know how we’re doing.


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