By James Wynbrandt
August 3, 2013 - OpenAirplane is open for business - and already growing.
Launched in June, OpenAirplane simplifies aircraft rentals for pilots away from their home base through a standardized checkout that enables members to rent from affiliated facilities without further checks.
"The idea that our pilot certificates turn off when we leave our home base is a bit ridiculous," said Rod Rakic, co-founder of OpenAirplane.
"We knew if we offered pilots better access and a better experience, reducing the friction in this broken marketplace could increase the amount of flying significantly."
Rakic and his partners began developing the OpenAirplane concept two years ago. They first approached aviation insurance companies gaining their support for a standardized flight checkout that would be recognized by all participating facilities.
Once the standardized checkout is completed at an OpenAirplane affiliated facility (qualifying as a Biennial Flight Review), members can access the website on a mobile device or computer; find participating facilities; see multiple photos of available rental aircraft, an equipment list, price, reviews of the aircraft, and the operator; book the flight; and also get information about local procedures.
There is no charge to individuals or companies to join.
The platform takes a percentage of the cost of any flight arranged through the service. Since its official launch, more than 3,000 pilots have signed on, Rakic said, while two dozen more locations are committed to joining, and an additional 90 have contacted Open Skies about participation.
OpenAirplane unveiled its prototype platform at Sun 'n Fun in 2012, and an online sign-up page drew 5,800 pilots, Rakic told AirVenture Today.
Here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh the company announced the addition of eight U.S. cities to its network of facilities: Naples and Tallahassee, Florida; Addison, Texas; Scottsdale, Arizona; Van Nuys, California; Minneapolis; Plymouth, Massachusetts; and Palmer, Alaska, all now recognize the standardized pilot checkout OpenAirplane developed.
The new locations join OpenAirplane affiliates in Chicago; Detroit; Kissimmee, Florida; Long Island, New York; and Long Beach and San Jose, California.
In addition to the other locations, OpenAirplane announced a partnership with Sennheiser to provide a headset at no charge for members' use during their flight. (Sennheiser is hosting OpenAirplane at its booth, No. 288.) OpenAirplane also received the Airplanista of the Year Award here at the Oshbash social media event.
"Pilots told us they would fly 10 more hours a year" if they could rent aircraft away from their home base without a hassle, Rakic said of a survey OpenAirplane conducted. "Getting the 70-hour [a year] pilot to 80 [hours] just by getting into OpenAirplane, that's what we're hoping will happen. It will mean a significant, measurable impact on the flying community and on the aviation ecosystem."