The share economy hits private planes

The share economy just keeps stretching into new markets, and this time it’s towards the air: An Airbnb-like sharing service for private airplanes has just launched.

Dubbed OpenAirplane, the company is essentially a vetting service for private pilots. Typically if a pilot has a private pilot’s license, he can only rent planes from his local flight school. If the pilot goes to another airport, having a private pilot’s license isn’t enough. He or she typically has to take a plane out with an instructor to be vetted, regardless of the fact that the pilot has an FAA issued license.

OpenAirplane is innovative in that the startup will actually do the vetting itself as well as the safety training, certifying all the pilots in its network and then giving them easy access to multiple planes at different airports. What’s interesting to me about this new share economy company is that this is a classic case of using the internet for trust and security purposes. In order for share economy companies to succeed they have to create a trusted network full of easily identifiable members. Because OpenAirplane is dealing with an expensive underlying asset to be shared (an airplane) as well as critical liability and safety risks, it has to create one of the most trusted and identifiable group of users.

While the world of private pilots and their planes is surely a rarified one, there will certainly be some lessons from the newest share economy experiment.