Leighton H. Collins is best-known for his magazine, "Air Facts", and some of his books, "How to get the Most Out of Your ADF" (1954), "Air Facts Reader 1939-1941" (1974), and "Takeoffs and Landings" (1981). "Takeoffs and Landings", with a 2005 reprinting, is a fundamental text for pilots new and experienced.
Collins was born April 20, 1902 in Greenville, TX. He received his Bachelor of Science degree (with majors in physics and math) from the University of the South (1920-23), and then attended Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration (1923-24). He earned a bachelor of law degree from the Arkansas Law School (1925-27).
He learned to fly in 1928 at Little Rock, AR. He first entered aviation while in the insurance business, flying his own airplane to serve his customers. The combination of insurance and aviation led to an early interest in flight safety. It was in the interest of air safety that he founded "Air Facts" magazine in 1938.
He began his work career as a Liability Insurance Company claim investigator on July 1, 1924. He married Sarah Banks of Fordyce, AR on June 27, 1928. Between then and 1938 he was field representative for the Aeronautical Corporation of America based in Cincinnati, OH. He sold their Aeronca aircraft from 6/1/33 to 9/1/34. From 9/1/34 to 6/1/35 he represented the Lambert Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, MO. He sold their Monocoupe aircraft. From 6/1/35 to 1/1/38 he was a flying school operator and aircraft dealer. In 1938 he went into publishing.
His magazine caught on, was widely popular, and it expanded to include subjects of general interest to pilots. Under his editorship, it became one of the most informative and factual publications in its field. Air Facts was primarily focused on helping pilots to understand the risks of flight, and persuading them to fly more safely. Most issues were between 75-85 pages, although in the 1970s they reached 98 pages.
Published between 1938 and May 1976, his magazine led to public understanding and acceptance of general aviation flying. He edited the magazine until 1973 when he retired from full-time publishing. He was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity, the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame, the OX-5 Club and of the Aviation Writers Association.
Leighton Holden Collins landed at Tucson on July 17, 1930. Based in Little Rock, AR, he was with his wife as passenger westbound from Lordsburg, NM. Their destination was Los Angeles. They were traveling in NC991K, a Cardinal aircraft. The image below is of the same model. NC991K was a C2-90 model, with the new LeBlond 7-D engine of 90HP at 1,975RPM. According to Juptner (reference, left), the higher power engine was aimed at the "sportier type of pilot."
The airplane's type certificate, #274, was issued on November 14, 1929. NC991K was S/N 115. Cardinals were thinly distributed around the country, due mostly to the economic sag of late 1929 and an already entrenched competition. Nevertheless, it was a decent cross-country machine of its era. It held 30 gallons of fuel and cruised at 100MPH. It also had internal expanding brakes and the tail skid was placed far aft to improve its three-point stance and ground handling.
Pilot Collins held commercial (certificate #7709), instrument, multiengine, seaplane, helicopter and hot air balloon ratings. He had accumulated 2,465 flight hours as of 1943. Over his flying career he accumulated more than 12,000 flight hours. Leighton Collins left us on January 16, 1995 at age 92 in Hendersonville, NC after a full life of influence on thousands of pilots.