Pilot Rod Rakic aims to claim a piece of the sky in the $1.2B domestic private airplane rental market. With about 600-thousand active pilots in the U.S., Rakic knows there is airspace in the industry for a company that makes renting planes as easy as renting cars.
OpenAirplane, a startup based at 1871, launched in late June with 600 registered users. Weeks later, the number jumps to 2,500. The platform allows licensed pilots to rent an aircraft online — many for under $200 an hour.
“The whole team, we’re all pilots,” says Rakic, whose co-founder is a web developer named Adam Fast. “We love flying. We saw that there could be an opportunity by getting rid of some of the friction in the marketplace.”
That ‘friction’ is the average 45-minutes now spent online by pilots searching for aircrafts to rent. OpenAirplane, with its consolidated list of planes, cuts booking time substantially. Registered users can quickly browse by location, model, and price. They can do so from their computers, tablets, or smartphones. Soon, there will be ratings and reviews.
The ease of use built into the application is driven by the team’s personal desire to offer quicker, and fuller, access to the freedom of the open skies. Online booking for planes is hardly a new concept. But, in enterprise, execution is key. Rakic says they began where others had stopped.
“People told us [that] the insurance carriers would never let us do this. We talked to the insurance carriers, then we talked to the operators of the aircraft. And then, finally, the pilot population really got excited around the idea,” says Rakic. “At that point, it really meant, we’ve got to really, at least, try this.”
It’s a business model built, partially, on trust. Every 12 months, pilots are required to demonstrate their flight proficiency at one of the six OpenAirplane partner operators around the country. Only, then, do pilots have use of the OpenAirplane platform for another 12 months.
“We have an opportunity to lower the accident rate and increase the utility of every pilot’s certificate,” says Rakic.
But, it’s also about freedom and choice.
In the U.S., passengers of commercial airlines are limited to about 300 destination airports. For OpenAirplane pilots, a choice of 5,500 airports, and the adventure of the blue open skies, await. ❒
[Photo of Ron Rakic by Dabney Lyles. © Blackline Review.]