OpenAirplane Shutting Down


OpenAirplane has announced that it will be closing the doors on both its aircraft rental platform and its FlyOtto charter platform as of Dec. 23, 2019. According to the company, OpenAirplane was designed to make it easier for pilots to “find, book, fly, and pay for aircraft rental online or with a mobile device” while providing a way for renters to access additional customers. FlyOtto did the same for charter passengers and Part 135 operators. In addition to coordinating rentals, OpenAirplane offered a pilot checkout service that allowed FBOs to verify the pilot’s qualifications and training.

“While the idea of OpenAirplane won us praise, fans, and even super fans, the reality is that too few pilots took to the skies to make the operation sustainable,” said OpenAirplane and FlyOtto founder Rod Rakic. “If there’s one thing that we learned the hard way, it is that it’s tough to get pilots off the couch and into the cockpit.”

Rakic founded the company in 2011 and officially launched in May 2013. FlyOtto came into being in 2016. According to Rakic, more than 25,000 people signed up for the two platforms. OpenAirplane says its support channels will remain open through Dec. 29.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. I’m sorry to hear this. OpenAirplane was a really good concept. Question I have is: How many pilots would they need to make it sustainable? And how did they plan to get to that number? I recall there being a lot of buzz about them several years back – then nothing. It seems like the marketing just stopped. Now that flight training activity is picking up, it’s not the right time to throw in the towel.

  2. I live very near 3 airports, KBQK, KSSI, and K09J. The closest participating airport is KGNV – 150 mi. away. That is part of the problem

    • When I read about the universal checkout service, I had doubts. One checkout for multiple airports sounded like a wonderful idea, but it conflicted with normally strict requirements of a local checkout, ending with many airports not available as you found.

      • There is no way that I would let someone that was checked out by a CFI on the other side of the country walk in and rent my airplane. That’s why I said no. THAT is the main problem with this concept.

  3. It is a shame. You would think this sort of thing would have been embraced by more flight schools, but it wasn’t.
    It seems to me the flight school business, and thus GA, is trapped in a system where innovation does not seem to pay off.
    My bias is to think the cause is incompatibility in skill and/or personality between being able to run a school successfully and make change. It takes a serious grinder to run a school successfully, and that person isn’t the sort to risk changes. Or vice verse.

    • There is too much risk to give someone your airplane that you have never flown with. The concept won’t work.

  4. I never really understood what problem this was solving. I also don’t really get charter in a small airplane– it’s shockingly expensive to most regular people. We do it because we love it, but it definitely is not an economical way to travel. Those that can afford it can usually also afford a King Air or similar. I don’t think there is a large group of people in the middle who are also not interested in buying an airplane or renting from an FBO.

    Most of the flight schools I am familiar with are CFI mills.

  5. OpenAirplane’s shuttering is a huge loss for general aviation– not in terms of economic impact or jobs, but in terms of the sense of FREEDOM that flying affords us.
    I got my license last year, and I was looking forward to many years of amazing flying adventures that are now that much harder and more expensive. Flying to Kitty Hawk; the Hudson tour over NYC; he Florida Keys or the Grand Canyon; soaring over the fall foliage of New England– now, virtually impossible without a ton of hassle.
    Now I’m limited to flying in my local area, unless I pony up $100k or more to buy my own plane– and even then, it’s not like you can routinely fly cross-country to see all of these amazing sights.

    • You can still fly at all those places after a check-out. You can’t blame them for not wanting to give you their $100k airplane without ever having flown with you. You might even get some “local knowledge” on the check out so you don’t get violated for airspace infractions while flying up the Hudson or over the Grand Canyon.

  6. Like many aspects of GA, the “problem” that OpenAirplane was solving can only honestly be described as a “luxury”. The luxury of being able to see beautiful parts of the country; to have bucket-list experiences that are only afforded to us as pilots; to be able to introduce friends and family in different parts of the country to the joy of flight; and to do so without having to spend a day and shell out $250 to get approved for a plane I’ve already been flying for hundreds of hours.
    And to address the lack of airports: you don’t need universal coverage, just enough airports in places that recreational pilots want to fly.

  7. Open Airplane was a great idea in theory but it just won’t work. Most flight schools are not going to trust a checkout from some 300 hour CFI on the other side of town or the other side of the country. I know I wouldn’t. When they called me to get on board, I declined. Too much risk-too little reward. It’s not Hertz.