The only thing that can save aviation is…

OSHKOSH — “The only thing that can save aviation is aviating,” stated OpenAirplane co-founder Rod Rakic at a Wednesday AeroInnovate forum at AirVenture.

OpenAirplane is, very simply, a program to qualify a pilot to rent a plane from any in-network FBO in the country, without a local checkout.

In 2011, general aviation flight hours totaled 26.3 million. Of that, 10.9 million hours were in single-engine piston aircraft, with 4.9 million in the rental market. OpenAirplane intends to make a measurable impact on the rental market.

“Our research tells us that 96% of respondents would rent more if the process were simpler,” continued Rakic. “Our goal is to make renting a plane as simple as renting a car.”

In order to qualify as a renter, a pilot will have to pass a universal pilot checkout (UPC) at any of the participating FBOs. The UPC is a pass/fail checkout, and once passed will also reset the clock on an FAA Flight Review as well as qualify for the FAA Wings program.

The accident rate for all of general aviation operations is 7.7 accidents per 100,000 flight hours, according to Rakic. Meanwhile the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) has an accident rate of just 2.8 accidents per 100,000 flight hours.

“Why create something from scratch when a model already exists,” noted Rakic. “The CAP conducts rigorous annual UPCs.”


The program is completely web-based. It has been developed for the mobile platform first, tablet or phone.

When a member launches the application, they will see a very simple interface asking them, “Where do you want to fly?” Type in the location and OpenAirplane will return results showing airports with qualifying aircraft for rent in that area. A user can view the results, look at aircraft detail and rental rates and then book rental time, all from the app.

Once the flight is complete, the user will log the Hobbs and tach time. OpenAirplane will then calculate the total rental fee, add 10% for the service and charge the credit card on file.


The FBO gets paid, the pilot has gotten to fly, and OpenAirplane makes some money it will pore back into system.

The kicker of the system is that the pilot will have gotten to fly without requiring a local checkout, which can add several hundred dollars, not to mention precious time.


At present, OpenAirplane is still in development and seeking investors to speed up the schedule. Since SUN ‘n FUN this spring OpenAirplane has signed up 3,100 pilots interested in the program and has heard from more than a dozen FBOs.

If you are interesting in knowing more, sign up at the OpenAirplane website.


  1. Rod Rakic says

    Thanks for the comments folks. Just departing from Oshkosh this morning, and I wanted to chime in before I hit the road.

    Our research shows us that almost all the flying folks will do will be INCREMENTAL to the flying they do today. Pilots have told us that they’ll use the platform to fly hours that they don’t fly today, with operators that they don’t use today, because of the expense and hassle of a local checkout.

    And for the Concerned Business Owner, I completely understand the sentiment. The idea is to bring operators pilots/renters that have completed a checkout more rigorous that is typically offered today. Our checkout has been vetted by almost ALL the insurance carriers underwriting operators in the US. We worked with the insurance industry for 7 months prior to announcing what we were up to to ensure this could work.

    Together we can all make the experience of renting planes better. We can make renting planes more profitable for operators, help pilots fly more, fly safer, and have more fun too!

    Any questions? Drop me a line at rod [at] anytime!

    ~ Rod Rakic, co-founder

    • Rod Beck says

      I think you may be a little “over zealous” in assuming that YOUR check-out criteria model, even if it may be endorsed by the insuance carriers, will  equally be the concensus of the independent FBO/flight school operator.

      Apparently, in all do respect, it seems you may be a little naive about the “ego” factor when dealing with those who recent being told they didn’t think of “it”, whateven IT may be, FIRST!

      Perhaps GAMA/NBAA could offer “Aviation Consumer Sales Psychology 101” for aspiring GA business folks like youself?

  2. Concerned Business Owner says

    As a flight school owner there is no way I’d go for this. I want to physically meet and fly with everyone who wants to rent. It’s my business and reputation on the line. My insurance requires a checkout flight by our chief CFI even for highly qualified people. I don’t see how they will get around insurance issues.

    • Rod Beck says

      Yes  – after hitting “send” in my comment, remembered the insurance aspect of the “idea” – you  make  a valid and concerned point. I wonder how “OpenAirplane” plans to overcome this?

      Each FBO/flight school will have thier own “subjective” check-out criteria or minimum and could vary widely and at the discreation of the operators CFI.

      Or was this just an oversight in their busines plan/model?

    • simplytj says

      I would think that requiring renter’s insurance would be reasonable, to get to be a part of the program.  I like the idea, I don’t rent away from home simply because a lot of time I’m somewhere that I would like to go fly for an hour.  I just don’t want to do it badly enough to fly an hour long checkout to get to do it.

  3. Rod Beck says

    The “concept” is great – but will a volume of demand by renter pilots (aviation consumers) or a strong customer base INCREASE the annual utilization of the FBO’s/flight schools aircraft to any large degree?

    Or is it just spreading/shifting TOTAL nationwide annual rental demand around amongst operators?  Time will tell!

  4. Tim says

    Imagine if every rental car agency would require two hour checkout before renting a car. That would be ridiculous yet we somehow find it totally acceptable in aviation.
    Some people are scared of the idea but they should not. I am a member of a big flying club with tens of airplanes and thousands of members. People do checkouts and then they keep renting and flying different airplanes without need to checkout in every airplane they want to fly. If I can fly any cessna in my club why can’t I fly cessna in another club? OpenAirplane makes a lot of sense.

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