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OpenAirplane shuts down

OpenAirplane, an initiative aimed at streamlining the airplane checkout process and getting more pilots flying, has shut down.

Cofounder Rod Rakic announced the closure on social media December 18, 2019, calling the startup launched in 2013 “a fantastic adventure.”

OpenAirplane was designed to make checking out in a rental aircraft more seamless. The initiative recruited flight schools and FBOs to accept pilots who had completed a “universal pilot checkout,” or UPC. Tougher than a standard checkout, the UPC was designed to enable pilots to go to a flight school or FBO to rent an airplane without having to undergo any additional checkout. Rakic hoped to emulate the experience of renting a car, where the driver is simply handed the key.

In a post on Medium, Rakic said pilots were excited by the idea—more than 5,000 signed up to get updates—and the prospects for success seemed bright. However, he said, “general aviation is a bit like teenage sex. Lots of people talk about it, even when few are doing it.” Surveyed pilots had indicated they would fly as much as 10 hours more per year with a program like OpenAirplane, but that did not happen—“demonstrating to us at least that surveys are a terrible way to capture intent,” Rakic said.

“While the idea of OpenAirplane won us praise, fans, and even superfans, the reality is that too few pilots took to the skies to make the operation sustainable,” Rakic said.

An associated charter business, FlyOtto, will be shuttered as well. While the charter business brought in more revenue than OpenAirplane, Rakic said, data showed that “getting to sustainability would require much more capital than we first assumed.”

Rakic said he wouldn’t have done anything differently in launching OpenAirplane, and noted that 97 percent of seed-stage funded startups fail, and on average they survive for 20 months; OpenAirplane lasted 91 months.

Reservations through OpenAirplane and FlyOtto will be suspended as of December 23, Rakic said, adding that the program’s team would be available via its support channels through December 29.

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