17 October 1929 – 2 January 2015

Kenneth George Munson, Deputy Editor of what is now IHS Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft: Development and Production (JAWA) from 1990 to 2014, passed away peacefully on 2 January 2015. 

Ken (as he was known to his friends and colleagues) joined the compiling team of Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft in 1968, becoming its Assistant Editor in 1973 and then Deputy Editor. Paul Jackson, editor of JAWA said: “We have lost a most excellent colleague, whose tireless quest for excellence has been an example to us all — and one that we shall have great difficulty in following. His record of 46 years on Jane's All the World's Aircraft will never be equalled, but that contribution will always be with us and the wider aviation community.”

Among Ken’s responsibilities on JAWA was the book’s section on unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). This interest produced not only a stand-alone book (World Unmanned Aircraft, Jane’s, 1988) but also, in 1995 when the subject grew too large for a JAWA appendix, spawned a specialised sister publication, Jane’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and Targets (JUAV), which was edited by Ken until 2007. His successor as JUAV editor, Mark Daly, remembers Ken, not only for his professional thoroughness but being “a most modest person in a world of big egos, who enjoyed his cricket, a pint of beer and a ciggie.”

After education at Eltham College, London, Ken worked in the Air Ministry from 1945 to 1959, most importantly on the Joint Services Aircraft Recognition Journal, before turning to aviation journalism as a career. He left the civil service on being informed he was to be posted to an Accounts section (“to gain more experience, the Civil Service said,” he told me on the occasion of his 85th birthday at a nursing home in Eastbourne).

He worked, initially, for Rainbird (a publications packaging company) but it was through his work on the Ian Allan ABC-series of softback books that many readers first came across ‘K G Munson’. A text commissioned by the company on German and Italian aircraft of WW2 was deemed unsatisfactory and incomplete. After a recommendation from John W R Taylor (for whom he would later work on JAWA), Ken was approached to overhaul it and bring it up to the required standard. The text was virtually re-written and published as Enemy Aircraft (German and Italian) of WWII by K G Munson in 1960.

Ken went on to compile more of these ABC-series, later brought together as a hardback, and was responsible for over 40 books and many more part-works on various aspects of aviation, past and present. As well as Ian Allan, Ken worked with Blandford Publications, Profile Publications and Putnams.

My first encounter with Ken Munson was in the mid-1970s, working as Assistant Editor of this august publication’s earlier incarnation, the Aerospace newspaper. He was a mild-mannered, modest and quietly-spoken gentleman ‘of the old school’ who was only too happy to share his knowledge and experience with a novice aviation journalist. As my own career progressed and I travelled to overseas shows, I sometimes picked up a few UAV brochures and passed them on to Ken, consulting with him from time-to-time on the subject when writing news or features for my own magazine.

When I joined Jane’s in late 1993, Ken was one of the first of the yearbook team to welcome me aboard and we became even better acquainted. Seeing the other side of his work on JAWA, I soon came to appreciate his thorough professionalism. He wrote in a fluent, informative and readable style that continues to this day, exhibiting that understanding of and attention to detail that marks a Jane’s Editor. Ken was an acknowledged expert on his subject(s) and had been a pivotal influence in fostering my own interest in aviation.

I do, however, recall having to come to his rescue during one Le Bourget (Paris) about ten years ago. In an effort to produce ‘bumper’ reportage of the show, all the Jane’s Yearbook editors attending had been requested to file one or two stories from their own area during the show. I was sitting with other members of the team when Ken arrived and said he’d written a story, who wanted it? He waved about a neat hand-written story with no crossings-out. There was a moment’s silence … the expectation was that the story would have been written on a computer and filed electronically or via memory stick. Although conversant with computers, Ken did not have a laptop, neither did he think about filing copy that way. Saving his embarrassment, I took the story and thanked him, saying I’d type it in that night and file it directly for him.

Ken Munson was almost the last survivor of that gang of post-war aviation writers (John Fricker, William Green, Bill Gunston, Alan W Hall, John D R Rawlings, Gordon Swanborough and, of course, John W R Taylor – all of whom have passed) that fed the enthusiasm of at least two if not three generations. This was acknowledged by his peers in July 2012, when Ken was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural Aerospace Media Awards, above, held at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London.

Michael J Gething MRAeS
Editor – EO/IR Systems for IHS Jane’s C4ISR & Mission Systems

27 January 2015