Alex Fitzpatrick MASHABLE
OpenAirplane: Finally, a Zipcar-Style Service for Airplanes
June 17, 2013
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  • Rejoice, oh aeronautical adventurers of American airspace: There’s finally a Zipcar-style service for renting small airplanes.

    OpenAirplane launched Monday at airports in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Jose, Kissimmee and Detroit with the goal of dramatically simplifying aircraft rental.

    OpenAirplane members first take a standardized flight exam before they’re allowed to borrow an airplane from a variety of airports. Previously, private pilots who don’t own their own planes had to do “checkout flights” with every new rental firm before receiving the keys — a time-consuming and expensive process.

    “My co-founder and I are both pilots, we’ve both been renters. We know it kind of sucks that when you leave your home base, your pilot certificate and your credentials turn off, because when you don’t have rental privileges, it takes half a day and hundreds of dollars to turn those credentials back on,” OpenAirplane co-founder Rod Rakic told Mashable.

    Once certified by an OpenAirplane-qualified instructor, pilots can use their Internet browsers or a mobile app to reserve airplanes. They will find the keys waiting for them with their airplanes — without the hassle of dealing with rental company offices.

    Pilots using OpenAirplane must retake the safety exam once a year, twice as often as mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Borrowing a feature from sites such as Couchsurfing, rental companies can “rate” pilots based on how they treat their rental aircrafts in an effort to weed out bad renters.

    Significant differences remain between OpenAirplane and Zipcar. Flight schools and rental companies, not OpenAirplane, own the aircraft listed on the service (making it a bit more likeAirbnb in that regard). As with other forms of aircraft rental, pilots are required to take the aircraft back home — they can’t drop them off at another airport in the OpenAirplane network.

    Currently, six aircraft rental companies and flight schools are on board with OpenAirplane. Nine additional outfits have made verbal arrangements and 50 more are in the pipeline.

    Would you use OpenAirplane if you had a pilot’s certificate? Share your thoughts in the comments.