New App Helps Pilots Connect, Find New Places to Explore

The Hangar platform allows aviators to share flight details with others, as well as search for destinations, such as where to go for their next ‘$100 hamburger.’

An example of a user post on the Hangar platform. [Courtesy: Hangar App]

How do you typically learn of your friends' most eventful flights? Is it over a cold beverage in a circle of lawn chairs as the sun goes down? Is it through social media or text conversations? Perhaps, it’s through other means, but the point remains the same—aviation is more enjoyable when it's shared with others. 

Sam Sessler, a private pilot from Seattle, has created a new way for fellow aviators to share their aerial adventures with one another in a mobile app he created called Hangar. 

Sam Sessler is the founder of Hangar, a social-sharing platform for pilots. [Courtesy: Sam Sessler]

“A little over a year and a half ago, I had an idea for an aviation platform used to share flights and connect pilots,” Sessler said. “This was mainly inspired by two things: pilots sharing screenshots of their flight tracks to Facebook groups, Instagram, Twitter, etc., and my love for Strava, the run/bike/hike sharing platform. So, in November of 2022, I set out to build this thing.

“Hangar is a social sharing platform for pilots. It is more than a logbook and can allow you to make new connections. I see a logbook as a work item, whereas this is more of a storybook about your flights. You can go back and look at all the different flight tracks, statistics, and pictures from your favorite flights.”

Sessler has built the digital product entirely himself, including creating the code that powers its diverse functionality. His main goal is to build the platform with the community, rather than for the community, and is continually working to incorporate user feedback into future versions. 

An example of a user post on the Hangar platform. [Courtesy: Hangar App]

“Hangar is a flight-sharing platform that utilizes ADS-B to retrieve your flights and share them with the world, or just your followers,” he said. “The maps are fully interactive, and you can include up to four flight tracks (10 with the pro membership) stitched together for these fun multileg cross-country trips. Pilots will be able to see their flights broken down into each leg.

“There is also a stats button on the bottom right that shows altitude and groundspeed charts throughout each leg. The pro membership has takeoff and landing wind data. Pilots can include up to six images with their flights or simply just post a map. My favorite feature…is the ‘props’ button. Instead of sticking with a boring ‘likes’ feature like every other social media platform, Hangar users will instead give ‘props’ to each other. The icon spins when you click it, which is kind of fun.”

As many pilots know, finding new and unique places to fly to can be a challenge. Hangar makes it easy to discover new places to explore, searchable by several characteristics. Users can even search for fly-in restaurants to find their next "$100 hamburger" destination.

“[You can] find airports near you or explore over 70,000 airports around the world on Hangar’s interactive map,” Sessler said. “Each airport shows flights that have been posted to it, basic airport info, live weather, and reviews that users leave. Once more users are on the platform, the explore page will develop into a more exciting experience as well with new features allowing you to discover active pilots on the platform.”

One of the most unique features is what Sessler has labeled the "stick-and-rudder rating." This rating, he advised, is a custom formula that highlights a pilot’s currency based on total hours in the past 90 days that helps gamify their recent flights. He also noted that pro users have access to a map that shows all of the airports they’ve flown to, as well as a reference to takeoff and landing wind conditions during those flights.

The Hangar app, which was released in late February, is available for download in the App Store. The basic version is free, and the pro version is $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year. 

“We have more than 2,500 users so far, so it’s going pretty well, and these users are active," Sessler said. "Initially I had beta testers for three weeks before I launched Hangar to work out some of the bugs. I posted the app on a couple of Facebook groups and got like 130 people from that. Then I started rolling out a couple of Instagram ads, just kind of testing the waters after I launched. Those, I think, helped a lot. People are liking the app a lot.”

One of those users is Sean Smith, another pilot from the Seattle area. Smith, who flies a 1979 Mooney M20K from King County International Airport-Boeing Field (KBFI), was one of the first to download Hangar.

“I heard about the app through Flights Above the Pacific Northwest (FATPNW),” said Smith. “I signed up for the beta and started using it immediately. It’s been fun to watch the meteoric user growth since [its] public launch.

“I’m a user of Instagram, and I’ve used it to meet other pilots and form friend groups. However, it’s too superficial, and it’s nice to have a pilot-specific app that self-selects for people who are actually flying. It creates a different type of community, less focused on showing off and more focused on actual flying. My favorite part is seeing people across the country take check rides and do their first solo. It’s been fun to be able to share flights on Hangar.”

Grant Boyd is a private pilot with eight years of experience in aviation business, including marketing, writing, customer service, and sales. Boyd holds a Bachelor's and a Master's of Business Administration degree, both from Wichita State University, and a Doctor of Education degree from Oklahoma State University. He was chosen as a NBAA Business Aviation "Top 40 Under 40" award recipient in 2020.

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