OpenAirplane Launch Offers Remote Rental Opportunities

 - August 3, 2013, 12:55 AM
The OpenAirplane universal checkout system will make renting easier, by removing the need for a separate checkout at each firm.

The OpenAirplane universal rental system was launched in June with six airplane rental companies participating in the program. “The response to our launch has been amazing,” co-founder Rod Rakic told AIN. “More than 2,500 pilots have signed into our app, creating pilot profiles to fly with OpenAirplane in the first two weeks.”

OpenAirplane is a system that allows pilots who are checked out and current to rent airplanes at participating companies without undergoing a checkout at each provider. Each pilot must undergo an OpenAirplane-devised Universal Checkout, then he or she can rent similar airplane types at other OpenAirplane-participating rental companies. The Universal Checkout basically matches the standards set for pilot checkouts by the Civil Air Patrol.

For example, a pilot who flies Cessna 182s at California Flight Center in Long Beach, Calif., and who has undergone the Universal Checkout can rent a 182 from Trade Winds Aviation at Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose, Calif., or at any other OpenAirplane provider, without getting checked out again. Trade Winds (or any other provider) has the option, too, of allowing that pilot to rent other airplanes such as a Cessna 172 if the pilot can show sufficient proof of experience in that type.

The OpenAirplane concept is intended to make it easier for pilots to rent airplanes away from their home base. For example, a business traveler might have a need to rent an airplane after flying commercial to a destination, but the prospect of having to get checked out at the destination airport might add too much expense and hassle. With OpenAirplane, as long as the renter is current (has flown in the past 90 days) and has completed the Universal Checkout, he could rent an airplane from an OpenAirplane company. OpenAirplane charges a fee based on the airplane’s rental rate, but renters don’t pay anything to join OpenAirplane. There is no charge for rental companies to list their aircraft with OpenAirplane. Participating pilots can also get a discount on renters insurance.

Local Procedures Knowledge

To make sure renters understand local operational procedures, OpenAirplane rental companies provide information on their websites to explain any necessary local information. Trade Winds Aviation, for example, has an extensive description of Reid-Hillview operational procedures, not just for the airport but also its own requirements. The procedures are displayed in a standard format, so pilots will know where to look for information no matter where they are flying.

As of early July, Trade Winds Aviation had one customer complete the Universal Checkout, according to customer service representative Nick Vanlooy. He anticipates that the company will gain additional business because of OpenAirplane.

The Universal Checkout is just like a typical airplane and flight operation checkout, he said, with a review of the pilot’s documents, making sure the pilot knows the airplane and Trade Winds procedures and then a flight, he added, “like a short [biennial flight review] to make sure the pilot understands the limitations of the airplane.”

As an OpenAirplane participating company, Trade Winds can view feedback on member pilots and provide feedback that other operators can view. Pilots can add feedback about the rental companies, too.

The Academy of Aviation at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, N.Y., is receiving “a lot of phone calls and interest,” according to director of operations Frank Delia. Although the academy hadn’t served any OpenAirplane customers as of early July, he expects to see more business, especially from pilots who travel to the New York City area who want to rent an airplane for local touring flights. “We wind up with a lot of temporary renters when people come to New York City and Long Island,” he said. “The only thing we require is a bit of a briefing on the airspace around us.”

Delia is convinced that OpenAirplane will benefit flight schools. “I’m a big fan of the whole premise. I’ve rented aircraft when I traveled before, and what should be a simple process is lengthier than it needs to be. The more people who are in it, the better off we’re all going to be.”

According to Rakic, OpenAirplane was in the process of adding four more rental companies as of early last month, including two more in Florida and two near Dallas. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to expand our footprint,” he said, “and give pilots access to more aircraft around the country. That expansion, along with continuing to improve the experience our app offers, is our focus now.”