Connecting pilots to promote GA

By JEFF SIMON, Guest Editorial

As hobbies go, flying has become a fairly solitary experience, at least in the air. The vast majority of general aviation flights are with a single occupant — the pilot. Added to that is the fact that flight hours have been in a steady decline for years, so we’re flying less and often doing it alone.

That’s a shame, because we certainly enjoy each other’s company. Some of my best flying memories are of meeting (or making) friends at fly-ins, pancake breakfasts, seminars, and other gatherings.

Each experience is a reminder of why we fly. It’s different for each of us, but there are common themes: Freedom, adventure, passion, excitement, challenge…the list goes on. So, why don’t we do it more often?

The challenge seems to be in overcoming the calls of daily life, the high cost of fuel, and the fact that flying can only be shared with the people in our lives who are comfortable with small planes. These facts translate too often into pilots staying home on a beautiful day.

So, what does it take to get more pilots off the couch and into the air on a beautiful day? The answer is surprisingly simple. It takes a Mission!

As pilots, flying is in our DNA, but sometimes we need a specific reason to pull the plane out and hit the skies — an Event. Something that, if we don’t go to today, right now, will be an opportunity missed.

We all know about the $100 hamburger (ok… $200 hamburger). But having good flying destinations isn’t enough to inspire pilots to fly more because destinations are always there waiting for us. We can always go there another day, and that leads to procrastination. Fuel is too expensive, things need to get done around the house, the list goes on and on.

Events are different. Every event is an opportunity to see new aircraft, meet new people or learn something valuable. But you can’t procrastinate. If it’s on the calendar, your mission is set and you either fly or miss the opportunity. Events are the key to energizing general aviation.

Aviation events are happening all around us, from Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) chapter events, flight school open houses, breakfasts, BBQs, airshows, seminars, type club get-togethers, fly-ins, etc. What’s needed is a better way to let every pilot know what’s happening all around them.

The solution is SocialFlight. SocialFlight’s free mobile app and website is the product of a grassroots effort to promote general aviation and get pilots flying more often. A small group of pilots spent years refining the concept, collecting the data and developing the product, and the results are impressive. The app contains more than 3,500 aviation events happening in 2013, all displayed on an interactive map. And, it’s catching on fast, with more than 18,000 pilots and aviation enthusiasts now using SocialFlight to plan their flying adventures.

Users can filter the events by date, event type, or even organization. Track your favorite events, forward the event to friends or add it to your calendar. The recently-released SocialFlight 3.0 even includes built-in features to find other SocialFlight users based on location, aircraft type, etc., so that you can network, chat, share photos and make plans to attend events together.

It’s a free tool that has the potential to inspire us to fly more because it gives us that reason — that mission — to get out there and make new friends, learn new things and remind ourselves why we fly.

The free SocialFlight mobile app is available for iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, as well as on the web at SocialFlight.com.

General Aviation News has partnered with SocialFlight to power our online and print calendar sections.

Jeff Simon is one of the co-founders of SocialFlight. Find out more at SocialFlight.com.

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