OpenAirplane Expands Nationwide, Adds Checkouts

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OpenAirplane, a service that aims to make it easier for pilots to rent airplanes when away from home, has been growing since its launch this summer, co-founder Rod Rakic told AVweb in an interview at AOPA Summit on Saturday. The system now has 80 aircraft available in 22 cities, and more than 4,100 pilots have signed up at the company's website. Using the system, pilots can take a "universal checkout" at home, and then rent a plane from participating FBOs while traveling. "Our goal is to make renting an airplane as easy as renting a car," Rakic said. The system so far provides checkouts mostly in single-engine Cessnas, but Rakic said they are now expanding those options -- they are adding more variety in the fleet, plus offering a multi-engine checkout and a mountain checkout for flying from elevations above 5,500 feet.

The first Cirrus SR22 in the system is due to go online this week, in Scottsdale, Ariz. The concept has the potential to increase the total flying hours in the aviation community, Rakic said, since pilots are flying missions they wouldn't have otherwise. "The hassle and the expense of getting a local checkout just keeps too many people from flying," he said. His system aims to change that. OpenAirplane offers a depth of information on its website about every rental aircraft, including multiple photos of the interior and the panel, and reviews from other pilots. The FBOs provide abundant local information, such as the best local sites to visit and preferred routes. Also, Rakic said the company has just "sealed a deal" with Sennheiser to provide new digital headsets to pilots who rent, so you don't have to pack your own headset when you travel. Access to the website and pilot registration is free.