Word came from Contact! magazine editor Pat Panzera, that Mick Myal, the founder of the publication, noted experimental aviator writer and editor, has passed away. Mick was known to thousands of traditional homebuilders from attending countless airshows, the books he published and the magazine articles he wrote, the but he will always be best remembered for founding Contact! magazine in 1990 and editing its first 70 issues.
Above, Mick in the yellow shirt captured in a humorous photo greeting the president of EAA Chapter #1,000 in 1998. This is how I think of Mick, out in the sun, meeting people, a smile and a camera. Of all the people I have met in aviation journalism, Mick was one of the very few to be respected by all kinds of builders. His work to document good ideas and the craftsmanship of individuals is timeless. People will be using the information in his publications 25 years from today.
When I was first getting started Mick and his wife Sue went out of their way to make sure we had an impartial venue in which to be heard. He arranged the engine forums at Sun n Fun for many years, and always included us in the roster, even when we were very small potatoes. They also published the first good story on our work and had our engines on display in their booth at airshows. I need to say that this wasn’t special treatment, 20 other small aviation companies could offer a carbon copy of this thanks to Mick. He liked, documented and offered a forum to all kinds of people in the world of experimental aircraft. He had planes and engines that he was personally fond of, but he covered anything that builders were interested in.
If you have gotten into building in the last ten years, it is very hard to appreciate how powerful aviation magazine editors were before the rise of the internet. Most of them assumed that their personal view of what was “good” should be the only thing to make it into the limited space. In the 1990s the then editor of kitplanes didn’t like anything low tech or simple. Even when we flew Corvair powered planes to airshows he refused to photograph them, and instead covered many engines that arrived on trucks as long as they had water pumps, a “PSRU” and EFI. Other editors would not cover a story unless they were essentially bribed with motels, rental cars and in some cases plane tickets. This was an unpleasant reality of our industry.
In complete contrast, Mick Myal impartially covered every story that made sense, he never let his personal preferences filter what got to readers. He pioneered having incredibly detailed user reports, loaded with real performance numbers. He broke the rules by telling people what planes actually cost to build. He had no advertising in his publications, and he was beholden only to subscribers. He was immune to flattery. He never spoke about his personal experience when there was a chance to listen to some one elses. In his later years, Pat often escorted Mick to airshows. When ever Mick stopped by a forum I was giving, I took the time to introduce him as “The most respected journalist in experimental aviation.” The ensuing applause may have made him a little uncomfortable, but I said it anyway, just because it was true.
While Contact! always covered airframe developments also, it is largely thought of as an engine publication. When Mick got started, the hand full of books and stories promoting auto engine were completely useless, and frequently dangerous bull shit. I spell that out in full so that people today understand that the ‘standard’ of the time was that it was OK to write stories that said auto engines that had never flown weighed less and were more reliable than certified ones. The people who made money promoting this never flew the stuff, but readers who thought they did often spent years building things that would never work or work just long enough to kill them. Before the internet, one man, Mick Myal, made a mission out of educating builders about the good, bad and ugly of experimental aviation. If you missed that era, I am here to tell you that those of us that lived and worked our way through it have very special reason to hold the memory of Mick in high regard. If you have a Corvair engine on your plane or in your shop, know that this man played a positive role in making that possible, in an era when it was really needed.
Mick was always sharply dressed and professional. To meet him, you might think he had a big machine, 40 or 50,000 subscribers. In reality is was a small fraction of this, but Mick was always after quality, not quantity. He probably never saw much of a financial return for his years of publishing, but you would do much better in measuring his wealth by the number and quality of his friends. At airshows in the 1990s that were becoming ever more consumer-spectator showcases, Mick’s Contact! magazine booth was always an oasis for technical people. It attracted a cast of real thinking characters like Vance Jauqua and Steve Parkman, at any given moment spilling over with builders all discussing things they tried and making sketches on paper and looking at each others photos. In the middle of it all, Mick would stand there with a slight smile on his face, undoubtedly pleased with what he had accomplished.
Blue skies and tailwinds to you Mick, thanks for many good things.-ww