The most talked-about airplane rental concept to come along in recent memory is officially open for business with the launch of OpenAirplane, a network of FBOs and flight schools that lets pilots receive one annual checkout and then rent airplanes at locations across the country.
Because the service is so new, OpenAirplane is limited to six partner locations at the moment, but the plan is to expand as quickly as possible to provide the maximum benefit for members seeking to utilize the Zipcar-style service.
Pilots who are new to OpenAirplane must undergo a checkout with an instructor at a participating FBO or school. As you might imagine, it’s a more rigorous evaluation than a run-of-the-mill biannual flight review. OpenAirplane’s Universal Pilot Checkout includes an hour-long oral exam followed by an hour or more in the air where potential OpenAirplane members will be expected to fly to practical test standards. (The checkout is pass-fail, so you might want to fly with your instructor to brush up on the Private Pilot maneuvers beforehand.)
The good news is that once you pass the ground and flight tests, you can rent from any participating location. For now OpenAirplane is up and running in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, San Jose, California, and Kissimmee, Florida. Pilots who are members must complete a checkout every 12 months to remain current in the network (in the same make/model as the airplane they are checked out in), as well as receive a “local knowledge briefing” once a year. Before signing up, you’ll also need to obtain your own renter’s insurance with a minimum of $250,000 in liability coverage.
It’s free to join OpenAirplane and it’s free for FBOs, flight schools and even flying clubs to list their airplanes in the network. OpenAirplane makes money by charging members’ credit cards and keeping 10 percent of the rental fee (based on wet Hobbs time). Participating schools can choose to charge OpenAirplane members more to cover the fee.
There’s also some fine print that requires you to pay for your rental time if you don’t show up for a reservation or if you return an airplane late. If you’re approved for VFR-only flying, you can cancel a flight without penalty if the visibility is less than six miles, the ceiling is less than 3,000 feet or there’s a crosswind of more than 15 knots. It’s all fairly standard stuff, but you’ll want to read the restrictions carefully before deciding if OpenAirplane is right for you. To learn more, visit OpenAirplane.com.