An Appreciation: Aviation Week Editor David Bond

David Bond
Credit: C-Span Video

"David Bond was an impeccable journalist, the epitome of integrity and a great writer. A gentle soul, his wit was legendary in the Washington office.” So wrote a former colleague, in a concise tribute Bond would have appreciated, after learning that the veteran Aviation Week scribe had died on July 31 at the age of 83.

During more than three decades in our Washington bureau, Bond wore many hats: reporter, editor, content innovator and mentor to young journalists. He wrote for three Aviation Week Network publications and became editor of two. It seemed there was no topic he couldn’t illuminate with his sharp prose: development of NASA’s space shuttle, the Reagan administration’s military buildup, the business dynamics of the airline industry and aviation security in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

His quiet, unassuming style would have been a poor fit in today’s era of social media promoters. A former editor cannot recall ever hearing him boast or even tell a story that made himself look better. Bond let his writing speak for itself.

David F. Bond was born April 9, 1940, in Norwalk, Connecticut. After earning a degree in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1962, he worked as a newspaper reporter covering local and state politics in Connecticut. In 1972, he moved to Washington to cover the big leagues.

As a NASA and then Pentagon correspondent for Aviation Week’s Aerospace Daily in the 1970s and 1980s, Bond established himself as a quiet leader in the press corps. Writing about the intricacies of the U.S. defense budget meant learning an entirely new dialect. Doing so on deadline every day, he accumulated—layer by layer—an uncanny knowledge of obscure programs.

When mainstream reporters took interest in the Raytheon Sidewinder missile replacement, the fate of the General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) F-16 or the grab bag of research efforts under the Strategic Defense Initiative missile defense program, they often sought Bond’s counsel to get it right. That he always stood ready to help his competitors aptly illustrates the character and integrity of a consummate professional.

Bond moved over to Aviation Week & Space Technology in 1989, serving as national affairs editor during a period that saw the end of the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War. In 1992, he returned to Aerospace Daily as editor-in-chief, presiding over the publication’s impressive growth. Under his leadership, the publication added more data and analysis of the news and created special-topic sections to ensure regular coverage of strategic programs, defense budget issues and the business of supplying the Pentagon.

Aviation Week management asked him to replicate that success by becoming editor of Aviation Daily, the business daily of the airline industry since 1939. For an old space and defense hand, it was a remarkable shift. But with his intellect and curiosity, Bond made that shift look effortless. He did for Aviation Daily much of what he had done a few feet away on the Aerospace Daily side of the newsroom by encouraging deeper reporting, special-topic features and a robust data and analysis section. All of that made Aviation Daily a must-read in every airline C suite and at the FAA. 

When that work was finished, Bond returned to Aviation Week & Space Technology as an air transport correspondent. Before long, he was writing a blow-by-blow account of how the FAA shut down U.S. airspace after terrorists crashed airliners into New York’s World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. “On Sept. 11, 2001, the day terrorists turned commercial transport aircraft into weapons of destruction and America turned itself into a no-fly zone, U.S. airlines put their economic problems aside and focused their efforts on getting back in the air again,” he wrote. “But resuming operations is a much taller order than suspending them.”

After retiring from Aviation Week, Bond took a side job providing communications advice at the FAA. Bureaucrats soon realized that the quietest man at their marathon meetings had much to offer. “He could turn the worst ‘bureaucratese’ into crisp English and work with the most impossible official who had no idea what he wanted an article to say,” remembers a colleague.

In recent years, Bond suffered from a series of falls. After the last of them, he died at a hospital near his home in Arlington, Virginia. He is survived by Janet, his wife of 52 years.