Flying Aces was one of a number of so-called "flying pulp" magazines, popular during the 1920s and 1930s. Like other pulp magazines, it was originally printed on coarse, pulpy paper, but later moved to a "slick" format. The magazine was launched in October 1928 by Periodical House, Inc. It featured adventure stories written and illustrated by known authors of the day, often set against the background of World War I. Later issues added non-fiction aviation articles, as well as articles and plans for model airplanes. The latter became more prominent, and eventually the magazine was renamed Flying Models, and catered exclusively to model airplane hobbyists.

The period from the late 1920s through the 1930s is considered the heyday of pulp fiction, and pulps were at the peak of their popularity. Over 200 magazines were published monthly, reaching an audience of 10 million readers, with the most successful titles selling up to a million copies per issue. Pulp fiction publishers employed unprecedented levels of market segmentation for their titles, exploring every popular category, including love stories, western stories, detective stories, and mystery stories. Publications were highly specialized, with each category having its own set of magazines, readers, and reader expectations.

This period also coincided with the golden days of aviation, highlighted by feats such as Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic and the first extensive use of airplanes in combat in World War I. Pulp publishers sought to capitalize on public interest in flying, which was influenced by stories of World War I flying aces, particularly Eddie Rickenbacker’s memoirs, Fighting the Flying Circus, and Elliot Spring's book on World War I combat flying, Nocturne Militaire.The revived interest in these stories was also due to films such as the 1927 release of Wings and Howard Hughes' 1930 production of Hell's Angels, an epic, mega-budget movie featuring more than 100 pilots and dozens of planes, glorifying World War I American air aces. The movie led to numerous similar films, and a plethora of aviation-oriented pulp magazines followed. Nicknamed "flying pulps," more than forty pulps devoted to World War I air battles began publication during this time, including titles such as Aces (1928), Battle Birds (1932), Air Trails (1928), G-8 and his Battle Aces (1933), Sky Birds (1928), War Aces (1930), War Birds (1928), Wings (1927), and Flying Aces (1928).


The magazine’s genre was adventure stories, set against a war background, written by well-known authors such as Lester Dent, Donald E. Keyhoe, Joe Archibald, and Arch Whitehouse. With the exception of Whitehouse, who was with the RAF in World War I, the authors had no personal knowledge of flying. The plot invariably centered on a hero — a military pilot — trapped in a difficult situation, from which he would extricate himself utilizing exceptional flying skills. The stories never featured any love interest or profanity. Attempts to introduce such elements were soundly rejected by the readership. According to Whitehouse, he tried hard to introduce a "seductive secretary" character to the Kerry Keene series, but the effort was met with numerous letters from readers demanding that he "Get rid of the broad. Get her out of the series of Kerry Keene stories."

The cover art featured dramatic air battle scenes painted by notable commercial artists of the day, such as Alex Schomburg and his brother August Schomburg.

 Notable series and recurring characters

Many of the stories published were part of long-running series, featuring well developed characters who appeared in every story.

 Kerry Keene

Created by Arch Whitehouse, Kerry Keene was a Department of Justice employee, and the pilot of an amphibian plane. The plane incorporated many modern design elements, such as folding wings and retractable landing gear (wheels and floats). This enabled the plane to land on water in Long Island Sound and then run up into a secret hanger on land, not far from Keene's residence in New York City. Keene was accompanied by his side-kick, an Irish mechanic named Barney O’Dare. Several features of the plane were incorporated into airplane models sold by the magazine’s advertisers.[9]

 Phineas Pinkham

Joe Archibald created the character of Lt. Phineas Pinkham, a World War I pilot stationed in Bar-le-Duc, France, as part of the "9th pursuit squadron." Phineas, a freckled farm boy from Boontown, Iowa, was a fearless stunt performer, to the disapproval of the squadron commander, Major Rufus Garrity and the flight leader, Captain Howell. His creator describes him as "maybe the worst pilot to fly a plane…downed more Krauts with trickery than any other way." Like American World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker, he flew a Spad biplane, and was the first pilot to rig the plane with a rear-gun — a shotgun operated with wires from the cockpit. The series ran in Flying Aces for 12 years. Archibald later published the collection of stories as The Phineas Pinkham Scrapbook.
Publication history

The magazine was launched in October 1928[11] by Periodical House, Inc.[12] It was initially published in a 7x10” format, with more than 100 pages per issue, and sold for 15 cents per copy.[13] In November 1933, the magazine moved to the so-called "slick" format — an 8½x10" format printed on glossy paper[14] and began featuring full-sized plans for model airplanes in every issue.[5] Issue size was reduced to 74 pages.[11] In addition to adventure stories, non-fiction aviation articles and aviation news were added, as were modeling articles. The magazine’s tagline became "Fiction, Model Building, Fact — Three Aviation Magazines in One."[15]

During World War II the content focused on the war effort, with little advertising. In later years, aviation modeling articles started appearing more regularly and became more and more dominant, until finally, in 1947, the magazine was renamed Flying Models, which is still published by Crastens[14] without the fiction content.[16]